Covid-19 hoaxes: Swiss residents sent fake texts and WhatsApp messages

Many people throughout the Switzerland have received SMS or WhatsUp messages from unknown sources in the past few days, spreading fraudulent information about the progression and management of the coronavirus pandemic in Switzerland.

Covid-19 hoaxes: Swiss residents sent fake texts and WhatsApp messages
Beware of dubious coronavirus claims. Photo by AFP

In the French-speaking part of the country, several people told The Local that they and others in their circle have received SMS messages claiming that Swiss hospitals are over-run and are turning away patients.

This claim is eerily similar to the one circulated in mid-March, when many people in Switzerland received WhatsUp audio messages, allegedly from medical personnel at Geneva University Hospitals (HUG), University Hospital in Lausanne (CHUV), and other medical institutions, saying there are not enough rooms for infected patients, and that sick people are either being turned away or left on gurneys in the corridors. 

Now, as then, these rumours are not true.

While beds in intensive care units and other critical care services in many Swiss hospitals are indeed reaching their full capacities, they are not at the moment saturated to the point of sending away sick patients.

READ MORE: What will happen if you have to go to a hospital in Switzerland during Covid-19 pandemic?

If a hospital cannot accommodate new patients, they will be transferred to another medical facility where space is available — and if possible, within the same linguistic region.

In the Swiss-German part, dubious WhatsApp voice messages are also making the rounds.

According to the Blick newspaper, an unidentified man and woman say that hospitals are falsifying coronavirus statistics for insurance money.

They allege that hospitals declare patients to be dead from complications of Covid in order to collect “4,000 francs from the insurance” for each patient who allegedly passes away.

These anonymous messages don’t give any specific or verifiable details about the location or the date of these supposed incidences. Nothing is revealed about the victims of the alleged machinations.

Nevertheless, the voice messages unsettle a lot of people, the Blick reported. One reader said that the woman heard in the message must be from central Switzerland, as she speaks in a “Schwyz-like dialect”.

Schwyz Hospital spokeswoman Nirmala Arthen told the newspaper the allegations about the insurance scheme are totally untrue.

“The current situation is a breeding ground for false rumours”, she said.



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New Covid-19 wave in Sweden ‘to peak at end of September’

Sweden's Public Health Agency has warned of a new autumn wave of Covid-19 which it expects to peak at the end of September.

New Covid-19 wave in Sweden 'to peak at end of September'

According to both of the two new scenarios published by the agency on Monday, infection rates are set to rise steadily over the next month, something the agency said was due to a falling immunity in the population and greater contact between people as they return to schools and workplaces after the summer. 

“It is difficult to say how high the peak will be, but it is unlikely that it will reach the same levels as in January and February,” the agency’s unit chief Sara Byfors said in a press release. “The most important thing is that people in risk groups and those who are 65 years old and above get vaccinated with a booster dose in the autumn to reduce the risk of serious illness and death.” 

Under Scenario 0, the amount of contact between people stays at current levels, leading to a peak in reported Covid-19 cases at around 5,000 a day. In Scenario 1, contact between people increases by about 10 percent from the middle of August, leading to a higher peak of about 7,000 reported cases a day. 

The agency said that employers should be prepared for many staff to be off sick simultaneously at points over the next month, but said in its release that it did not judge the situation to be sufficiently serious to require either it or the government to impose additional infection control measures. 

It was important, however, it said, that those managing health and elderly care continued to test those with symptoms and to track the chain of infections, that people go and get the booster doses when they are supposed to have under the vaccination programme, and that those who have symptoms of Covid-19 stay home.