Coronavirus: Continued close observation

05/06/2020 (13:00) - Press release
Department of Health

On the eve of the next reopening phase, which begins tomorrow Saturday, 6 June 2020, the Department of Health Basel-Stadt gave another report on dealing with Covid-19 in the canton, at a video media conference today. In particular, Head of the Department of Health Lukas Engelberger outlined how the Department of Health will deal with the coronavirus in the canton during this next major phase of easing restrictions.

The third reopening phase comes into effect tomorrow, Saturday, 6 June 2020, with relaxation of measures across the Confederation. This phase will largely make a return to everyday life possible. Gatherings of more than 30 people in public spaces, events and rallies with more than 300 people, and sports competitions involving close physical contact are currently still banned.

Head of the Department of Health Lukas Engelberger: “We are all looking forward to more of a return to normality. Numbers of cases in our canton and across Switzerland are low. Nevertheless, we mustn’t forget about the virus. We are now at the beginning of a phase in which we need to keep closely monitoring the coronavirus, because it hasn’t gone away”. Cantonal physician Thomas Steffen adds: “It isn’t up to us to decide when Basel-Stadt is coronavirus-free and when the coronavirus crisis is over, but the virus itself. Based on current international findings, sufficient immunity among the population may only be achieved with a vaccine.”

The Department of Health will intervene on a case-by-case basis if cases of the virus or larger seats of infection occur, as it did when two cases appeared at the Isaak Iselin school site and quarantine was imposed on more than 80 people (see daily bulletin of 29 May 2020). Their quarantine can end tomorrow, Saturday, 6 June.

Hygiene measures, safety policies in businesses, PCR tests when infections are suspected and contact tracing are still at the forefront of the continued regional fight against the pandemic. The situation will be continually analysed, with the number of new infections, the number of new deaths, mortality, the number of new hospital admissions, intensive care capacity, the number of tests carried out, the R number [reproduction number] and the number of quarantine cases being used for the assessment. Based on these indicators, additional restrictions would be imposed again if necessary, in order to prevent or minimise a second wave of infections.

Around 1,200 spot checks on safety policies in the canton

Interdepartmental teams have so far conducted 1,170 spot checks on safety policies: 161 on building sites and 1,009 in various different businesses and institutions such as hairdressing salons, grocery shops, restaurants and cafés, florists and museums. The shortcomings that the inspectors came across were usually minor. Shortcomings are recorded and checked again during a follow-up inspection. So far, it has only been necessary to order temporary closures for three businesses. The two hairdressing salons and the restaurant concerned have since reopened after making improvements to their safety policies.

930,000 face masks handed out

From February until the end of May 2020, the Department of Health handed out a further 930,000 face masks, primarily to healthcare facilities but also to people in quarantine. Based on the experiences of recent months, the Department of Health is aiming to achieve security of supply of at least 10 weeks, including in critical phases, in order to be able to compensate for supply bottlenecks as well as delayed deliveries. In the current situation, around four months’ supply can be covered. This allows for leeway even if demand increases and will make it possible to safely support healthcare services. The international market has since clearly relaxed so repeat orders are currently more reliable again.

Lifting of the extraordinary situation

The role of the cantons is predicted to become even more important after the transition from an “extraordinary” situation to a “special” situation announced for 19 June 2020. Correspondingly, the necessary strategic preparatory work is currently under way between the Federal Government and the cantons or rather the Conference of Cantonal Heads of Departments of Health (Konferenz der kantonalen Gesundheitsdirektorinnen und -direktoren (GDK)), in which the Basel-Stadt authorities, both at government and at management and expert level, are actively involved.

Codes of conduct and hygiene rules will still be the most important form of protection

Lukas Engelberger concluded: “The following still applies to the period ahead of us: Continuing to consistently adhere to the codes of conduct and hygiene measures is the most important form of protection. Please continue to behave in a disciplined way. I am calling upon everybody in Basel: Keep following the codes of conduct and hygiene measures, especially social distancing and regularly washing your hands! I would like to thank all of you for doing this.”