Corona Immunity, a nationwide testing program, has tracked the percentage of the Swiss population with antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus over time. Since the second wave of the pandemic, the percentage of the population with antibodies has more than doubled in many of the cantons covered by the study.
The sharp rise in antibody levels can be seen when comparing levels found before the second wave with those recorded recently after the peak of the second wave.
The cantons with the highest seropositive rates from the most recent study round included Vaud (25%), Geneva (21%), Friborg (20%), Luzern (18%) and Neuchâtel (17%). Rates are lower in Ticino (16%), Bern (14%), Basel (13%) and Zurich (8%).
The canton with the highest level has experienced the steepest increase – see figure 1. Vaud (10% -> 25%), Geneva (8% -> 21%), Friborg (8% -> 20%) and Neuchâtel (5% -> 17%) have all increased by at least 12 percentage points. In contrast, rates in Basel (6% -> 13%) and Zurich (3% -> 8%) increased only by 7 and 5 percentage points.
Compared to all the other cantons covered, Geneva stands out for its very low transmission rates among those over 64 compared to the general population. In Geneva, seropositivity among this group was 11%, much lower than the overall rate of 21% – see figure 2. In most other regions, rates among this age group are similar to or higher than the overall population average. For example, in Basel, 16% of those over the age of 64 had antibodies compared to an overall average of 13%.
Geneva’s relatively low infection rate among those over the age of 64 may have helped bring down the infection death rate (IFR) – based on Geneva’s most recent seropositive estimate, the IFR is 0.7% (705 / 20.5% x 500,000). With the vaccine now in place, Geneva has the opportunity to lock in some of these advantages. By the end of February 2021, Geneva had made good progress in this regard, having managed 94 shots per 100 people over the age of 80 and 53 per 100 among those aged between 69 and 80.
Overall, 17% of the Swiss population may now have antibodies, according to Corona Immunity. However, reaching these higher antibody levels has involved an estimated 8,000 additional deaths and may have left 100,000 or more patients with prolonged COVID-19, a disease that causes a variety of symptoms that are still poorly understood.
According to a recent study by Crown Immunity, 26% of those with Covid-19 have not returned to normal health in 6 months. A a similar study in the UK found that 22% had long-standing Covid for up to 5 weeks, with a higher rate between the ages of 24 and 69. Encouragingly, the same data shows that the percentage with prolonged Covid symptoms has fallen to 10% after 12 weeks. What happened over the longer span of time is unclear.
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