Switzerland named safest country in the world in response to COVID-19 pandemic
Interview with Prof. Dr. med. Georg Schulthess
30.06.2020 - Interviews
Are you surprised Switzerland has been declared the safest country on earth in this extensive survey?
Prof. Dr. med. Georg Schulthess: I’m not surprised that Switzerland has been declared the safest country from the perspective of dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. This is based not least on Switzerland’s comprehensive and highly-developed healthcare system. Nevertheless, this top classification is not self-evident since our country was confronted with major challenges: There is a close proximity to northern Italy, where a high incidence of COVID-19 infections was seen. And there are places such as Geneva, St. Moritz or Zurich, which usually are highly-frequented by people from all over the world.
The country prides itself on its strong association with health and wellbeing and has always had incredibly high hygiene standards. Why does it stand out as a nation in this way?
GS: Switzerland has traditionally been associated with medical research and significant advances in medicine. In addition, the healthcare system is available to the entire population in a meaningful and practical way. This brings with it an understanding of health issues and is helpful in maintaining high hygiene standards. The elaboration of hygiene measures – as now for the prevention of COVID-19 infections – must be followed by an effective implementation in medical institutions and the population.
How do you feel the Swiss authorities dealt with the crisis compared to others around the world?
GS: The measures taken in Switzerland have not differed in principle from those taken by many other countries. A relevant advantage was, however, a consistent implementation in a dense network of medical practices and hospitals all over the country. Moreover, the government has regularly brought the related information into a public debate and has personally represented the underlying arguments there. Professional and private people comply well if they can understand the basis of the measures in depth.
Did the country come out of the Covid-19 crisis more quickly than you expected?
GS: The drastically-reduced COVID-19 infection rate in Switzerland shows that the hygiene measures were correct and could successfully be implemented. In this sense, the national containment of the pandemic was roughly in line with the expectations. What remains unanswered so far is which prophylactic measures were necessary and which ones it might not have needed. An answer to this question may be found during the gradual relaxation of measures and the nationwide surveillance for possible new outbreak sites over the coming weeks and months.
In what ways have Double Check and The Kusnacht Practice reacted to the crisis and what has changed?
GS: Based on public hygiene guidelines, we have implemented strict regulations for Double Check and The Kusnacht Practice. These regulations stipulate that each patient is tested for COVID-19 prior to travel as well as upon admission to our locations. Our patients live shielded from the public in separate private buildings and are only transported and treated individually. Our staff and medical personnel comply extensively with the hygiene regulations and are, whenever an infection seems possible, tested for COVID-19.
Are the businesses now back functioning to full capacity?
GS: Due to the rules on border crossing, our medical activity is still limited to urgent cases of illness with a number of states. Given our essential medical activity, however, many of our patients meet the criteria of urgency, and so our capacity is again largely utilised. When a patient applies to be treated by Double Check and The Kusnacht Practice, we weigh the individual urgency and begin the necessary communication with the authorities.
Are there new initiatives being launched in response to the pandemic? And when are these being rolled out?
GS: Currently, the aim is to prevent a second wave of COVID-19 infections. As a supplement to classic contact tracing, the Swiss government is currently launching the corona app «SwissCovid». This app detects if the user has stayed near a COVID-19 positive tested person for more than 15 minutes. The user will be warned and may be required to go into isolation. The use of the app is voluntary and, in their application, no personal information is collected.
Have you seen an increase in enquiries since the pandemic and in which particular areas of healthcare?
GS: We have observed an increasing demand for clarification of generalised health issues which may be a risk factor for COVID-19 and other infections. These concern illnesses such as hypertension, heart and lung diseases, obesity and diabetes mellitus. Furthermore, the strengthening of the immune system and lifestyle issues are now frequently addressed.
What do patients get from Switzerland and specifically at Double Check and The Kusnacht Practice that they do not find elsewhere?
GS: Double Check and The Kusnacht Practice enable patients to receive medical care in a best-in-class, protected and highly-private environment. We inform the patients about all essentials of their body’s condition and clarify medical problems in depth. We weigh up individually and offer the patients – in co-operation with the leading Swiss clinics – optimal medical therapies and, if necessary, surgical interventions. Furthermore, we are also available for our patients as a long-term medical contact point.
Prof. Dr. med. Georg Schulthess, thank you very much for your insightful commentary on this survey.