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HEALTH

Indian Covid variant detected in Switzerland

A first case of the Covid-19 variant contributing to the exploding outbreak in India has been detected in Switzerland, the public health authority said Saturday.

geneva-airport
A man wearing a protective face mask rides his bicycle past the entrance of Geneva Airport amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus, on May 28, 2020, in Geneva. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

“The first case of the Indian variant of Covid-19 has been discovered in Switzerland,” Switzerland’s Federal Office of Public Health said in a tweet.

The virus variant was found in “a passenger who arrived in Switzerland after transiting through a European airport.”

The tweet from the Federal Office of Public Health (BAG) in German, one of Switzerland’s official languages

The health authority corrected its initial announcement to make it clear that the passenger had transited in another European country before travelling to
Switzerland, rather than transiting in Switzerland itself.

The correction in French issued by the health authority on Twitter

“The person changed flights in a European country before flying on to Switzerland,” spokesman Daniel Dauwalder confirmed to AFP in an email, adding that the positive sample was collected in March in the northern canton of Solothurn.
  
The Federal Office of Public Health is meanwhile discussing whether to add India to its “red list” of high-risk countries, it said on Saturday.

Only a few days earlier, Swiss Interior and Health Minister Alain Berset said the government had decided not to put India on the red list as there were no direct flights between the country and Switzerland currently, according to Swiss website 20 Minuten.

People arriving from countries placed on Switzerland’s red list are required to quarantine for 10 days.

But Dauwalder pointed out that India already figured on a separate list held by the State Secretariat for Migration, which meant that for now, in most cases, only Swiss citizens and residents were permitted to enter Switzerland after a stay in India.

Swiss Interior and health Minister Alain Berset (R) speaks with Head of the infectious diseases department at the Federal Office of Public Health Virginie Masserey Spicher following a press conference on January 6, 2021, in Bern. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

READ ALSO: Germany restricts travel from high-risk India

Switzerland puts countries and regions on the red list once Covid-19 infection rates remain significantly higher than Switzerland’s for a period of 14 days.

Furthermore, the World Health Organisation has so far only listed the variant as a “variant of interest”, that is one that is “suspected” to be either more contagious than the original strain, cause more severe disease, or escape the protection offered by vaccines.

Manfred Weber, Leader of the European People’s Party in the European Parliament, has called for all flights from India to the EU to be completely stopped, warning that the situation was getting out of control, German daily Bild reported.

Countries have been on high alert for the new “double mutant” variant, known as B.1.617, with several having already suspended flights from India.

More contagious variant?

There is concern that vaccines protect less effectively against this variant because of the two mutations in key areas of the virus’ spike protein.

Professor Paul Hunter, a professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, told The Guardian that the arrival of the India variant was potentially worrying.

“These two escape mutations working together could be a lot more problematic than the South African and Brazilian variants who have only got one escape mutation,” he said. “It might be even less controlled by vaccine than the Brazilian and South African variants.”

However, other experts were less concerned.

“It is not possible to discern a reliable trend from the few observations we have, but we should observe it closely,” Richard Neher, Head of the Evolution of Viruses and Bacteria Research Group at the University of Basel’s Centre of Molecular Life Sciences, according to Stern magazine.

Given the lack of knowledge about the many variants with noteworthy mutations, Neher said he did not believe that the Indian variant deserved any more concern than others.

Christian Drosten, a virologist at Berlin’s Charité teaching hospital, also did not see the new variant as a cause for concern, he said in an NDR podcast at the end of March.

READ ALSO: MAPS: Where in Switzerland are the highest and lowest Covid rates?

Since the start of the pandemic, in Switzerland and Liechtenstein, 646,509 people have tested positive for Covid-19 and 9,955 people have died from the virus, according to the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health.

As of April 21st, 9.8 percent of the population had been fully vaccinated against coronavirus with two doses of a vaccine.

The news of the variant’s arrival in Switzerland comes after Belgian authorities on Thursday said a group of 20 Indian nursing students who arrived from Paris had tested positive for the variant in the country.

India’s healthcare system is meanwhile buckling under a new wave of infections.

On Saturday, Covid-19 case numbers and deaths in the country set another grim new record.

The number of deaths across India climbed by 2,624 in the 24 hours to Saturday, up from Friday’s 2,263, as the country struggles to cope amid full intensive care units and a shortage of oxygen supplies.

A total of almost 190,000 people have died of coronavirus in India, according to official figures.

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QUALITY OF LIFE

The reasons why living in Switzerland can prolong your life

Swiss life expectancy is currently one of the highest in the world but what exactly is it about living in this country that can extend an average lifespan?

The reasons why living in Switzerland can prolong your life

All the metrics show that Switzerland is near the top of the charts in terms of life expectancy of its population.

For instance, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an average lifespan for a person born in Switzerland in 2022 is about 83.9 years, for both sexes combined. 

This places Switzerland in the second place worldwide, just behind Japan, and in the top spot in Europe.

How can this ‘Swiss phenomenon’ be explained?

If you are hoping that eating chocolate and cheese can boost your life expectancy, probably not so much.

But there are several other reasons why this is so.

For instance:

Good life conditions

Generally speaking, the increase in longevity can be explained by good living conditions and a generally healthy lifestyle, according an analysis by RTS public broadcaster.

And the majority of Switzerland’s residents can’t complain on that score.

The nature

The Swiss love the outdoors, which provide plenty of opportunities for a healthy lifestyle.

In their free time, they take to hiking trails, cycling, and others sports and recreational activities.

All this boosts their physical health – and mental well-being as well.

Healthcare

Switzerland has one the best healthcare systems, which is vital for maintaining the population’s health.

Its private (though expensive) health insurance covers all medically-necessary treatments.

“Switzerland benefits from a good health structure, and its health system is efficient in international comparison,” according to demographer Philippe Wanner.

Additionally, in terms of wait times for doctor appointments and medical procedures Switzerland beats many other countries.

According to an OECD survey on how long patients in various countries typically wait for an appointment with a specialist, the share of people in Switzerland waiting a month or more is 23 percent, compared to 36 percent in France, 52 percent in Sweden, and 61 percent in Norway.

READ ALSO : How long is the wait for medical procedures in Switzerland?
 
So the high quality of — and quick access to — healthcare services goes a long way in explaining why the Swiss live so long.

High quality of life

Again according to OECD’s Better Life Index, “Switzerland outperforms in income, jobs, education, health, environmental quality, social connections, safety and life satisfaction.”

All these qualities boost mental well-being — an important factor in overall health which, in turn, contributes to longevity.

In fact, among responses to The Local’s recent survey about why foreigners want to retire in Switzerland, “the quality of medicine” and “the quality of life” were cited as two reasons. 

READ ALSO: The reasons why foreigners want to stay and retire in Switzerland

The structure of the population

Demographics also plays a role in longevity, Wanner said.

He credits Switzerland’s high level of education, with those who are educated being “more health-conscious. We know that, statistically, they live longer than people with only secondary education or without any training.”

Peaceful and prosperous life

In comparison to many other nations, neutral Switzerland has not known any armed or civil conflicts, its politics is mostly uneventful, and economy comparatively stable.

All this is more conducive to longevity  than a life full of strife, which takes an emotional toll and can hasten illnesses.

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