Information on the disease

Information about coronaviruses

We have known about coronaviruses since the 1960s. They are a large family of viruses, seven types of which can cause illness in people. Four known types of coronavirus cause minor, recurrent colds, and three others can lead to serious illness. They are called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS coronavirus), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the new coronavirus, 2019-nCoV (COVID-19), which was discovered in 2019.

Originating in China the new coronavirus has spread all over the world during the past few weeks. Steps taken in Switzerland (lockdown, social distancing and hygiene measures) have enabled us to achieve a decrease in the number of new infections. Nevertheless, it is still possible to become infected with the new coronavirus, which will become increasingly likely as measures are gradually relaxed. We should all continue to closely follow hygiene rules and codes of conduct, and avoid unnecessary contact.

It is still very important to identify as many people as possible who are infected with COVID-19, isolate them and quarantine people they have been in contact with. This is the only way to break chains of infection.


According to the latest findings, individuals can become infected in the same way as with the flu, i.e. contact with the droplets that are released when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and direct contact with contaminated surfaces. Coronaviruses can be passed from person to person if people are in close contact with each other over a longer period (with less than 2 metres’ distance over an accumulated period of more than 15 minutes).



The symptoms are similar to a normal cold with or without fever, headache, sore throat, blocked nose, cough, breathing difficulties such as shortness of breath, muscle aches; conjunctivitis and gastro-intestinal symptoms are also possible.

Many sufferers also temporarily lose their sense of taste and smell. However, infections can also be entirely asymptomatic, but the infected person can still pass on the virus.

The illness is often mild in younger and healthy people, and it can be assumed that they will recover quickly. Older people and/or people with pre-existing risk factors can become more seriously ill. Severe pneumonia can occur, and life-threatening complications can develop in some cases.


What to do if you are experiencing the symptoms

Every person with an acute respiratory infection (e.g. cough, sore throat and shortness of breath), with or without fever, a feeling of fever or muscle pains and/or a sudden loss of sense of taste or smell, should be tested for the new coronavirus.

Testing for the new coronavirus in the Canton of Basel-Stadt is normally done at the University Hospital of Basel (Spitalstrasse 21, Entrance to University Hospital Center 1 (Klinikum 1), opening hours weekdays, Monday to Friday from 09.00 until 17.00) or through the emergency department at other times (book in advance by telephone), and for children at University Children’s Hospital Basel (UKBB). Referral by a paediatrician is usually required for tests at UKBB. Please do not travel on public transport to get to the hospital for testing. Avoid all contact with other people and wear some form of mask or protective cover over your mouth and nose if possible.

All people with an acute respiratory infection should start isolating as soon as their symptoms appear – either at home or where they live or in hospital, depending on the severity of their symptoms. If somebody tests positive for the virus, they must isolate for up to 48 hours after symptoms have disappeared, provided that at least 10 days have passed since symptoms began.

If health conditions deteriorate, please contact your GP or call the number for medical emergencies, tel. 061 261 15 15. You must contact a doctor if any of the following warning signs appear: a fever that lasts for several days, a feeling of faintness that lasts for several days, breathing difficulties, a strong feeling of pressure or pain in the lungs, confusion that wasn’t there before, blue lips or a blue face.

People who have tested negative for coronavirus must stay at home until 24 hours after symptoms have disappeared, as recommended for controlling the spread of other respiratory viruses (e.g. influenza).

People with pre-existing conditions or aged over 65

The Federal Office of Public Health has clarified the definition of at-risk groups. These people have the highest risk of becoming seriously ill. This group includes people aged over 65 and people with identified serious pre-existing conditions (including treatment-resistant high blood pressure / with organ damage, serious heart diseases, chronic and serious respiratory diseases, brittle diabetes mellitus / consequential damage, serious illnesses and treatments that weaken the immune system, cancer and medical treatments for cancer, high-grade adiposity (obesity, BMI of 40kg/m2 or more)).
These people should contact their GP immediately if they become ill. If you cannot reach your doctor, you should call the number for medical emergencies (tel. 061 261 15 15). Please tell them your symptoms and that you have an increased risk of illness. The doctor will then discuss with you what to do next.


Contact persons of people who are ill

Contact persons are people who came into close contact with an individual confirmed as having COVID-19 when they had symptoms or during the 48 hours prior to the symptoms showing.

The following are considered to be instances of close contact (greater risk of infection):

  • People living in the same household who were in contact with the individual at a distance of under 2 metres for more than 15 minutes
  • Contact of under 2 metres for more than 15 minutes without protection (e.g. without a perspex screen or a hygiene mask is not worn by the infected individual and/or contact)
  • Care, medical examination or an occupational activity involving physical contact (less than 2 metres), without the use of PPE
  • Direct contact with secretions from the respiratory system, bodily fluids without the use of PPE
  • In an aeroplane:
    • Passengers who were seated in the same row as the infected individual or in the two rows in front of or behind them, irrespective of the duration of the flight
    • Members of the crew or other passengers if one of the criteria listed above applies (e.g. spoke with the infected individual for more than 15 minutes)

These contact persons will be retained in quarantine for 10 days. The responsible cantonal authority will arrange the respective quarantines. The contact person should monitor the state of their health during quarantine. The contact person should avoid contact with other people, except for those in quarantine with them (e.g. members of the same household). If a person in quarantine develops symptoms, they should get tested and go into isolation (see above).

If it is not possible for the contact person to remain separate from the ill person, they should stay in quarantine until 10 days after the ill person experiences their last symptoms.

The following are not considered to be instances of close contact (low risk of infection):

  • People who were under 2 metres away from the infected individual for longer than 15 minutes whilst using PPE (e.g. a perspex screen or a hygiene mask worn by the infected individual and/or contact person)
  • People who were in the room with the infected individual (e.g. in the workplace) but did not come into contact with them for more than 15 minutes in total when at a distance of less than 2 metres
  • People in the same aeroplane with the infected individual but were sitting more than two rows in front of or behind them and did not come into any other form of relevant contact with them
  • People who live in the same household (e.g. shared accommodation) who did not come into contact with them for at least 15 minutes when at a distance of under 2 metres
  • Children of preschool and school age (compulsory school age), especially in school settings or family care facilities that do not have a cluster of cases (≥2 cases)
  • Lab personnel working on SARS-CoV-2 viruses that can propagate, provided that adequate protective measures were observed
  • Medical staff who were in the same room as the infected individual but maintained a distance of over 2 metres
  • Medical staff who came into contact with the infected individual at a distance of under 2 metres (e.g. in the case of care or a medical examination) whilst wearing adequate PPE the entire time.

In these cases a quarantine is is not necessary. However, it is advisable to monitor by oneself for symptoms of a cold. 



Treatment aims to relieve the symptoms. At this point there is no specific treatment for the virus.



Currently there is no vaccination existing yet. Great efforts are being made to develop an efficacious vaccination. 


Notification criteria (for doctors and laboratories)

Notifications are made according to the current notification criteria ( to the Cantonal Medical Office (via and to the FOPH (via Fax 058 463 87 77 or email:

Notification Form FOPH (in German)