Away from comprehensive tests, contact tracing and quarantine – towards targeted testing, caution and distance. Experts say that Omicron is forcing us to change our strategy.
- Claudia Blumer
- Daniel Graf
Taskforce boss Tanja Stadler says in a radio interview that she is “a huge fan” of contact tracing, quarantine and isolation. However, given the enormous number of cases, these instruments would become less important.
Alain Berset also said to the media on Friday: “The high number of cases changes quite a bit when testing”.
Experts such as Jürg Utzinger and Daniel Speiser are relying on personal responsibility and quick tests that you can do yourself for the coming weeks.
It would be conceivable for him to temporarily shut down the quarantine and nationwide tests until the number of cases is significantly lower again, says Utzinger.
The highly contagious omicron variant changes certainties that have accompanied us for two years now. Because experts expect that a large part of the population will become infected in the next ten days, mass tests and quarantine are also becoming less important. Statistically speaking, the average citizen on the street is now just as contagious as someone who stays at home because of a family infection.
Jürg Utzinger, Director of the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, says: “We currently have between 50,000 and 100,000 cases per day, including the number of unreported cases. It is questionable whether someone who is in quarantine because of a risky contact poses a greater risk than others who move freely in society. » It is now time to rethink the costs and benefits of quarantine.
From an epidemiological and economic point of view, it would be conceivable for him to temporarily reduce quarantine and nationwide tests until the number of cases has reached a much lower level again. “As soon as the number of cases has fallen sharply, consistent testing, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine would have to be implemented again to prevent another wildfire.”
Omicron like a “wildfire”
Utzinger explains it like this: “When the number of infections was low, individual houses burned, which were quickly discovered and extinguished by the fire brigade. In the meantime, however, the whole of Switzerland is on fire, to put it somewhat exaggeratedly, but fortunately the smoke is not excessive.”
“Wide-area PCR tests now make less sense,” says Utzinger. “The current phase is about prioritization: we have to make sure that people with suspected corona infection and those who work on the front line – be it in care, at the checkout or in other critical areas – have access to PCR tests and get their results quickly. Where necessary, we have to temporarily suspend repetitive tests in schools, for example, so as not to overload the laboratories.”
Daniel Speiser, immunologist and emeritus professor at the University of Lausanne, says: “We are in a transitional phase.” You now have to move slowly and well organized out of the strict measures.
In fact, with today’s high number of cases, little can be achieved with quarantine, says Speiser. But testing still has a certain importance. Even if PCR test results arrive late, they would have a braking effect. “It is now important to prevent the very large case number explosion.”
Self-tests are judged to be important
You shouldn’t forget the self-tests, says Daniel Speiser. Although they are less sensitive than PCR tests, they clearly indicate if someone has Covid symptoms. In this case you have to keep your distance. Self-tests are therefore very useful.
In the “wildfire” phase, self-responsibility apparently becomes more important again. “It’s not just self-responsibility, but also responsibility for others,” says Speiser. Jürg Utzinger is of the same opinion: Everyone is encouraged to use rapid tests on their own responsibility. “Anyone who has symptoms or had a possible risk contact, but also who visits their grandmother – self-tests make perfect sense for them.”
He has high hopes that Omikron could mean a return to normality, says Speiser. One variant will not be superseded by another so quickly. “Omikron is so successful, to put it ironically, that it’s hard to beat.”
Utzinger continues to be “cautiously optimistic”: “I assume that we will see the highest point of this omicron wave very soon and that the number of cases will then fall again just as quickly as they have risen.” Having tightened measures in the quiver is right and important. “They would not be justifiable in view of the still tense but not out of control situation in the hospitals and especially in the intensive care units.”
“Testing doesn’t make you healthy”
In the past few days, Federal Councilor Alain Berset and Taskforce boss Tanja Stadler had also made statements in this direction. At a media conference on Friday, Berset said that the currently very high number of cases changed “quite a lot” when testing. He understands when cantons restrict their test regime.
Philipp Walter, President of the Swiss Union for Laboratory Medicine, agrees: “One has to ask oneself how useful testing still is”, he said at the request of 20 minutes. Testing doesn’t make you healthy. And if so many people were infected, it’s best to assume that everyone could be positive.
Taskforce boss Tanja Stadler also commented on the SRF Saturday news: She is a “huge fan” of contact tracing, quarantine and isolation – but with the enormous numbers that we currently have, one has to ask whether a person is in isolation or quarantine in general is more contagious than the average person in the population. “Being a little looser makes more sense when the incidence is high,” says Stadler.
As a member, you become part of the 20-minute community and benefit from great benefits and exclusive competitions every day!