Swiss Sound Alarm As ICU Beds Fill Up With COVID-19 Patients

A healthcare worker takes a swab sample from a Swiss army reservist to be tested for the coronavirus disease at Moudon military base near a sign reading “Military” on November 8, 2020 
Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

A top Swiss medical association has sounded the alarm about over-saturated intensive care units across Switzerland as the second wave of Covid-19 infections takes a heavy toll.

“Swiss intensive care units are at the limit of their regular bed capacity,” the Swiss Society for Intensive Care Medicine (SSMI) warned in a statement issued Tuesday.

It said the 876 ICU beds for adults that it certifies across the wealthy Alpine nation “are practically all full”.

More beds have meanwhile been added, and the Swiss military has been called in to support efforts in several cantons.

Andreas Stettbacher, the Surgeon General of the Swiss Armed Forces, told media on Tuesday that the total number of intensive care beds in the country was now above 1,100, but warned they were at 80 percent capacity.

At the same time, the number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs across Switzerland has soared from 148 at the end of October to 543 on Tuesday, he said.

Switzerland emerged relatively unscathed from the first wave of Covid-19 infections in the spring but has been heavily impacted by the second wave, with hospitals pushed to the brink.

The country of 8.5 million people passed 10,000 cases per day several times earlier this month, and stricter measures, including the closure of restaurants and shops in some areas, have seen the numbers drop somewhat.

On Wednesday, Switzerland registered more than 6,000 new cases and 84 new deaths, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to nearly 280,000 confirmed cases and 3,377 deaths.

Swiss authorities have voiced concern over a spike in excess deaths among the elderly.

During the first week of November, 1,702 people aged over 65 died from causes including Covid — 50 percent more than normal for the age group.

SSMI said it was essential to postpone all non-urgent medical procedures to avoid overwhelming hospitals.

The organisation also urged everyone, but especially those with a high risk of developing severe Covid-19, to draft directives such as whether they wish to receive prolonged life-support if they fall critically ill.

“In this way, their loved ones, but also medical teams in the intensive care units, will be supported in the decision-making process, ensuring the best possible treatment in accordance with the patient’s wishes,” it said.

-AFP

Messi Vs Ronaldo In Champions League Group stage, Man Utd To Face PSG

(COMBO) This combination created on October 1, 2020, shows file pictures of Barcelona's Argentine forward Lionel Messi (L) Juventus' Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo. Miguel MEDINA, Josep LAGO / AFP
(COMBO) This combination created on October 1, 2020, shows file pictures of Barcelona’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi (L) Juventus’ Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo. Miguel MEDINA, Josep LAGO / AFP

 

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will meet in a mouthwatering clash in this season’s Champions League after Barcelona and Juventus were placed in the same group in Thursday’s draw.

Messi and Ronaldo will resume the rivalry they developed when the Portuguese superstar was at Real Madrid. Between them, they have won 11 of the last 12 Ballons d’Or.

The two heavyweights were drawn in Group G along with Dynamo Kiev of Ukraine and Ferencvaros, the Hungarian club returning to the group stage for the first time in quarter of a century.

Meanwhile, beaten 2020 finalists Paris Saint-Germain will have a chance for revenge against Manchester United, who ousted the French club in the last 16 two seasons ago.

READ ALSO: Lewandowski Named UEFA Men’s Player Of The Year

PSG will also come up against RB Leipzig in Group H. The sides met in last season’s semi-finals in Lisbon in August, with Paris winning 3-0 before losing to Bayern Munich in their first-ever final appearance.

Completing the group is Istanbul Basaksehir, who are appearing in the tournament proper for the first time.

English Premier League champions Liverpool, who won the Champions League in 2019, will face Ajax as well as Atalanta and Midtjylland of Denmark in Group D.

Holders Bayern will take on Atletico Madrid and will also have a short trip across the border to Austria to take on Salzburg in Group A. Lokomotiv Moscow are other team in the section.

Other notable match-ups will see 13-time European champions Real Madrid meet Inter Milan in Group B and Chelsea come up against debutants Rennes as well as Europa League winners Sevilla in Group E.

Chelsea signed goalkeeper Edouard Mendy from Rennes last week.

The group stage starts on October 20, and all six rounds of games will be crammed into eight weeks in a schedule that is even more packed than usual because of the coronavirus pandemic.

This season’s final is scheduled to be staged in Istanbul, which was initially the host for last season’s final before UEFA was forced into a change of plans because of the health crisis.

It remains to be seen whether spectators will be able to attend matches in the group stage.

Lewandowski Named UEFA Men’s Player Of The Year

 

Robert Lewandowski was named UEFA Men’s Player of the Year on Thursday following a superb season in which he won the treble with Bayern Munich.

Lewandowski was at UEFA headquarters in Nyon in Switzerland to receive the award at the draw for the Champions League group stage, just weeks after Bayern won the 2019/20 edition of the competition.

The Poland striker scored 55 goals in 47 games as Bayern also won the Bundesliga and German Cup. He was the top scorer in the Champions League with 15 goals.

Viral Video: Nigerian Embassy In Switzerland Didn’t Call Police On Nigerians, Says NIDCOM

The Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) has denied claims that the Nigerian Embassy in Switzerland called police on some Nigerians who were at the Embassy to collect their passports.

NIDCOM in a statement signed on Wednesday by its spokesperson, Abdurrahman Balogun, said the Embassy instead invited officials of the Embassy Protection Unit to bring order to the situation which was already turning rowdy.

“The mission did not call the Police as erroneously stated in the video but invited the Embassy Protection Unit to bring calm and decorum back to the hall.

“The men of the Embassy protection unit addressed them and those on appointment as well as those who had made their online payments were attended to while others were advised to follow the due process, with an assurance that everyone will be attended to as long as the rules were followed,” the statement read in part.

READ ALSO: US Hails INEC, Security Agencies Over Edo Guber Poll

While explaining further the circumstances which led to the commotion in the viral video, NIDCOM said 64 Nigerians besieged the mission on that day, whereas the Embassy could only attend to a maximum of 20 persons at a time in line with the COVID-19 protocols.

Although a voice could be heard in the viral video alleging that the Swiss police were called to arrest the Nigerians who were at the embassy to collect their passports, NIDCOM insists no Nigerian was arrested.

“In view of the above video it is imperative to state the facts. In line with Covid-19 protocols, the Embassy in Bern. Switzerland is only allowed to attend to 10 applicants, however, the Mission made it possible to attend to a maximum of 20 daily, spacing out the appointments.

“But on this day, 64 Nigerians besieged the Nigerian mission in Bern. Only 10 of them were on the scheduled appointments.

“54 of them had no appointment for that day and had not made the mandatory online payment and the majority of the applicants came from Italy and Spain with no appointment with no online payment.

“While the Nigerian Ambassador Baba Madagu was addressing them, they barged in through the front door and overcrowded a hall that was meant to receive only 10 people at a time,” the statement read in part.

It, therefore, appealed to Nigerians abroad to be good ambassadors of Nigeria wherever they are and obey laws put in place.

UK To Impose Quarantine On Arrivals From Switzerland, Jamaica

PM Johnson Says UK Anti-Racism Protests 'Hijacked By Extremists'
In this file photo taken on April 12, 2020 A handout image released by 10 Downing Street, shows Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he delivers a television address after returning to 10 Downing Street after being discharged from St Thomas’ Hospital, in central London on April 12, 2020. Pippa FOWLES / 10 Downing Street / AFP.

 

Britain said on Thursday it will reimpose quarantine for travellers from the Czech Republic, Jamaica and Switzerland, but ease restrictions on arrivals from Cuba in a bid to keep coronavirus infection rates down.

The decision, which will come into effect from 0300 GMT on Saturday, will require travellers from those three countries to self-isolate for 14 days following spikes in cases.

“Data shows we need to remove the Czech Republic, Jamaica and Switzerland from our list of #Coronavirus Travel Corridors to keep infection rates DOWN,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps wrote on Twitter.

“Data also shows we can now add Cuba to those countries INCLUDED in Travel Corridors,” he added, warning that people thinking of travelling abroad should be prepared for the advice to change at short notice.

Quarantine was imposed last week on Croatia, Austria, and Trinidad and Tobago, following France, the Netherlands and several other countries on the list as governments across Europe grapple with fears of a second wave of virus infections.

Britain, which has been the hardest-hit European country by COVID-19, registering more than 41,000 deaths to date, has itself seen its number of confirmed cases creeping up in recent weeks.

Officials announced more than 1,500 new cases on Thursday, its highest total since mid-June, although hospital admissions and death rates remain low.

The UK had no quarantine measures in the early stages of the pandemic but in June imposed a blanket self-isolation requirement on all arrivals.

Weeks later it carved out “travel corridors” which exempted travellers from certain countries from quarantine.

However, the measures were reintroduced for arrivals from Spain in late July, catching airlines by surprise — as well as thousands of Britons leaving for their holidays.

The country’s struggling tourism sector has criticised the quarantine policy as overbearing and called for more targeted testing at ports of entry.

AFP

Hit By COVID-19, Switzerland Plunges Into ‘Historic’ Recession

An elderly man wearing a protective face mask walks in a street in Lausanne on August 18, 2020, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
An elderly man wearing a protective face mask walks in a street in Lausanne, Switzerland, on August 18, 2020, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

Switzerland has plunged into recession after the coronavirus pandemic caused a “historic” 8.2-percent slump in economic activity in the second quarter, official figures showed Thursday.

“In the second quarter, Switzerland’s GDP (gross domestic product) suffered the biggest decline since records of quarterly data began in 1980,” the economic affairs ministry (SECO) said in a statement.

During the first quarter, the wealthy Alpine nation’s economy shrank 2.5 percent compared to the previous quarter, it said, revising the figure slightly from the 2.6 percent announced in June.

Recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of contraction.

SECO pointed out that Switzerland was by no way unique, with the global economy also in sharp recession as the pandemic rages worldwide.

To date, more than 820,000 people have died out of the some 24 million infected globally by the novel coronavirus.

SECO stressed that in Switzerland, which has seen over 1,700 deaths and more than  40,000 cases, the “GDP decline remained limited in an international comparison.”

During the second quarter, Switzerland saw manufacturing slump nine percent, with growth in the country’s sizeable pharmaceutical industry preventing a steeper decline.

Exports of goods, excluding precious metals and other valuables, plunged 9.4 percent.

Switzerland’s service sector was meanwhile hit hardest by the measures taken to contain the pandemic, it said, with accommodation and food services for example  plummeting over 54 percent.

SECO pointed out that tourism-related services had a smaller share of GDP than in most neighbouring nations.

But internally, the measures, which shuttered shops and restaurants, hit private consumption hard, pushing it down 8.6 percent.

Overall, SECO said, domestic demand recorded a “historic decline”, with imports of goods falling 14.3 percent and services more than 22 percent.

 

AFP

FG Expecting $200m From Netherlands, Switzerland – Malami

 

The Federal Government says Nigeria is awaiting the return of $200million from the Netherlands and Switzerland.

According to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, the money is part of proceeds from the Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL) 245 Malabu oil deal.

Mr Malami disclosed this on Tuesday at a one-day capacity building workshop organised for judiciary correspondents in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

At the event, he presented a scorecard of the Ministry of Justice in the last one year during which he outlined the efforts of the present administration in the war against corruption.

“On the fight against corruption and associated recovery of looted and illicit assets, I am happy to inform you that within the period in contention, Nigeria succeeded in recovering $311 billion from U.S. and New Jersey and the money has been repatriated to Nigeria,” Malami said.

READ ALSO: FG Recovers N800bn Looted Funds, Convicts 1,400 – Lai Mohammed

The minister said due to the anti-corruption crusade, the Federal Government facilitated the recovery of $62 billion arrears from oil companies as part of its Production Sharing Agreement (PSA).

He explained that the money has been paid into the Federal Government treasury for utility development such as the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Kano-Abuja Expressway, and the Second Niger Bridge, in line with the agreement reached with the foreign partners.

Malami also disclosed that over N685 million was recovered through the help of whistle-blowers within the last one year while N500 million was recovered from forfeited vessels, trucks, and barges.

A file photo of Information Minister, Lai Mohammed.
A file photo of the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed.

 

Elsewhere, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said the government has recovered looted funds in excess of N800 billion with over 1,400 convictions secured.

Mohammed, who also addressed reporters in the nation’s capital, stated that the present administration’s fight against corruption was as strong as ever.

While stressing that there were records to back up his claim, he said Nigerians have recently been inundated with allegations of monumental corruption in a number of government agencies.

He listed some of the agencies to include the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Switzerland Authorises Remdesivir For Wide Use Against COVID-19

This file photo taken on April 8, 2020 shows one vial of the drug Remdesivir during a press conference about the start of a study with the Ebola drug Remdesivir in particularly severely ill patients at the University Hospital Eppendorf (UKE) in Hamburg, northern Germany, amidst the new coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Ulrich Perrey / POOL / AFP
This file photo taken on April 8, 2020 shows one vial of the drug Remdesivir during a press conference about the start of a study with the Ebola drug Remdesivir in particularly severely ill patients at the University Hospital Eppendorf (UKE) in Hamburg, northern Germany, amidst the new coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Ulrich Perrey / POOL / AFP.

 

Switzerland announced Thursday that COVID-19 patients beyond those on clinical trials could be given remdesivir, the first drug shown to be relatively effective in treating the new coronavirus.

At least two major US studies have shown that the anti-viral drug can reduce the duration of hospital stays for those suffering from the novel coronavirus.

“With immediate effect, remdesivir can be used more widely in Switzerland for the treatment of COVID-19 patients,” the government said in a statement.

Following a swift review this week, Swissmedic, the national agency for therapeutic products, said it would allow the temporary distribution of the drug, which was originally intended as a treatment for Ebola.

“Products containing the active substance remdesivir and marketed under the brand name Veklury may be used in Swiss hospitals, without authorisation, for the treatment of COVID-19 patients,” the statement said.

The product will be made available to patients outside approved clinical trials and the approved compassionate use programme, pending a decision on full authorisation of the drug.

Clinicians will monitor any adverse reactions to the drug to ensure patient safety, the government said.

– Cases rising again –

Switzerland had largely got the virus under control, but, from a low and stable base, has witnessed a resurgence in cases in the last week or so.

The wealthy European nation, population 8.5 million, said in Thursday’s daily COVID-19 update that 31,884 people had tested positive for the new coronavirus since it was first detected in Switzerland in February.

Some 4,051 people have been hospitalised and 1,685 have died. Nearly 600,000 PCR tests for the virus have been conducted, with 6.4 percent proving positive.

The United States has bought up almost all the supply of remdesivir.

Washington announced this week that it had purchased 92 percent of all remdesivir production by the California-based Gilead laboratory until the end of September — about 500,000 treatments out of nearly 550,000. Each treatment requires 6.25 vials on average.

The World Health Organization’s emergencies director Michael Ryan said Wednesday that the Geneva-based UN agency was looking into procurement details.

“There are many people around the world who are very sick with this disease and we want to ensure that everybody has access to the necessary life-saving interventions,” he told a virtual briefing.

AFP

Swiss Football Suspended Over Coronavirus

 

The Swiss football league on Monday suspended all Super League and second-division Challenge League matches until March 23 as part of efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

“This Monday, at a meeting, all 20 clubs in the Swiss Football League (SFL) … decided to suspend the championships until March 23,” the league said in a statement.

The league referred to a government decision taken on Friday to suspend all events with more than 1,000 participants until March 15.

It said it ruled out the option of playing matches behind closed doors for economic reasons.

Over 20 people have tested positive in Switzerland since a first case emerged less than a week ago and on Sunday authorities announced that two high school classes and their teachers had been quarantined.

Friday’s government decision forced the cancellation of the Geneva International Motor Show and the suspension of the popular Swiss hockey championship

AFP

Switzerland Records First Coronavirus Case

Team leader of the joint mission between World Health Organization (WHO) and China on COVID-19, Bruce Aylward shows graphics during a press conference at the WHO headquarters in Geneva on February 25, 2020. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

Switzerland reported its first case of new coronavirus on Tuesday after outbreaks were identified in its main neighbours Austria, France, Germany and Italy.

The case is a man in his 70s who was infected near Milan where he attended an event on February 15, federal health office chief Pascal Strupler told reporters.

The man is from the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino on the border with Italy and has been with his family since suffering the first symptoms on February 17.

He is now in isolation in a hospital and anyone who has come into contact with him since his return from Milan will be tested and placed in quarantine for 14 days.

“His state of health is good,” the health officials said in a statement, adding that the risk of contagion for Switzerland as a whole remained only “moderate”.

But it also said that, because of the proximity to Italy, “the probability is growing that other cases will be diagnosed”.

Prior to this case, Switzerland had tested some 300 suspect cases that were all found to be negative.

The government said on Monday that it had stepped up testing on patients with flu-like symptoms and was working to raise awareness at all border points.

AFP

Iran Summons Envoy Over US ‘Warmongering’

 

 

Tehran summoned an official from the Swiss embassy, which represents US interests in Iran, to complain about American “warmongering” in neighbouring Iraq, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

“The Swiss charge d’affaires was summoned to the foreign ministry… over stances of American officials with regards to developments in Iraq,” a ministry statement said.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran conveyed its strong protest… over warmongering remarks made by American officials which are in violation of the United Nations Charter,” it added.

President Donald Trump and other US officials have blamed Iran for rocket fire that killed an American civilian contractor in northern Iraq on Friday.

They have also accused Iran of being behind the storming of the US embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday by protesters angry over retaliatory US airstrikes in western Iraq that killed 25 militants.

In its statement, the Iranian foreign ministry said it had asked the Swiss charge d’affaires to inform the United States that “Iraq is an independent country”.

“The American army has martyred at least 25 young Iraqis and has wounded countless more without presenting the slightest evidence of them being at fault,” it said.

“Naturally the people of Iraq react to the country that has occupied their country and kills their young people.”

Tehran and Washington have not had direct diplomatic relations since Iranian students stormed the US embassy in 1980 and held staff hostage for 444 days.

 

Former Ukraine MP Faces Money Laundering Charges

 

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Switzerland has charged two Ukrainians, including a former parliamentary deputy, for allegedly laundering around 2.8 million euros ($3.1 million) via Swiss bank accounts, the government said Friday.

“The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland has filed an indictment with the Federal Criminal Court against the Ukrainian national and long-standing member of the Ukrainian Parliament and a second Ukrainian national,” the Federal Council said in statement.

“They are accused as part of a criminal group of having laundered around 2.8 million euros through the Swiss financial system.”

The identity of the second Ukrainian national was not revealed.

The laundered money was “suspected to have originated from offences committed in Ukraine and the Czech Republic,” the statement said.

“These alleged offences are currently the subject of criminal investigations by the Ukrainian and Czech authorities.”

According to the prosecutors, Martynenko, using an offshore company he owned, arranged for bank accounts to be opened in Switzerland through which the money would be laundered.

A Czech supplier of components for nuclear power stations, Skoda JS, then made payments into the accounts in return for contracts to supply components to Naek Energoatom, the state operator of nuclear power stations in Ukraine, the prosecutors alleged.

AFP