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Health News

Swiss ramp up contact-tracing in face of COVID surge

FILE PHOTO: Staff of the County of Geneva work in the contact tracing unit as Switzerland enters a second wave of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Geneva, Switzerland, October 29, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

GENEVA (Reuters) - Masked staff sit hunched over computer screens in an open-plan office in downtown Geneva racing to track down every new person infected with COVID-19 and the friends, relatives and contacts who may be at risk.

Numbers are rising, as they are across Europe, so the Swiss team has been expanding and tweaking its tactics to keep up with the surge.

“For several weeks now we have been reporting a big increase in numbers of cases which has led to a massive reinforcement of the unit,” Simon Regard, a doctor at the city’s contact tracing unit, told Reuters Television.

A monitor on a wall shows clusters of cases across the canton, marked out in red circles.

Regard said the team had changed some processes and started relying on infected people themselves to submit information on their contacts.

The priority has been on managing clusters among vulnerable people, Regard said. Staff still phone up infected people to check whether they were wearing masks when they saw their contacts.

Geneva is among the hardest-hit cantons in Switzerland which this week ordered dance clubs closed and added new mask requirements but left the country largely open for business.

Aglae Tardin, the cantonal doctor for Geneva, said the situation had deteriorated quickly.

“First, with 700 to 900 new cases per day, every day for the past 10 days now and second, with the number of hospitalizations that are increasing - we’ve exceeded the 400 people hospitalized now in acute care at Geneva University Hospital ... of course this is a lot,” she said.

Additional reporting by Silke Koltrowitz in Zurich; Writing by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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