COVID-19, where are we in Verbier?

Dear APCAV members,

Your committee hopes that you are well and that you are taking good care of yourself and your loved ones.

Switzerland, today, is in the phase of an exponential propagation of the Covid-19 virus within the population, in the same way as those before us in China, Italy, South Korea, Japan, France, Spain, amongst others. Measures have been taken gradually by our Federal Council, however, without a general confinement. The population is called to stay at home, groups of more than 5 people are prohibited, most shops are closed, as are restaurants and all non-essential public establishments.

On Saturday, we had 6,100 positive cases in Switzerland. Tighter social distancing measures were announced by the Federal Council last Friday March 20, which will begin to bear fruit in two weeks. Given the natural progression of the disease in a poorly protected population, this means that in the meantime the number of cases will double on average every 4 days. Following this implacable logic, we can deduce that the official number of infected people will be around 80,000 within two weeks. From then on, even if the curve turns a little, the virus will continue to spread in the population as long as containment measures are not taken which limit the movement of people to the absolute minimum. According to the mathematical models of the natural spread of the epidemic, strict containment of at least 95% of the population is required to bring the R0 spread index below 1 (an average person infects one other). Today, many workers continue to go to offices and organize with friends or neighbors to babysit their children. There is, therefore, still room to reduce the movement of people, while retaining the essential services of health, food, energy and the transport of goods in particular.

With regard to Verbier, all public establishments and shops are currently closed, apart from food shops, pharmacies and some banks. We do not have official figures on the number of people infected. However, for the past few days, we have been aware of more and more cases of people testing positive who either reside and work in Verbier, or have stayed there recently. One of the medical offices recently closed because all of its staff was infected. The doctors of Verbier implore the authorities to put Verbier, or even the whole valley, under quarantine (see article in the Nouvelliste of 22.3.20). This is hardly surprising given the mix of populations in a tourist hotspot like Verbier. Needless to say, moreover, that the virus was able to spread widely during the holidays of February / March when our neighbor Italy had already put under cover some villages to start, then the North of the country, then the whole of the nation.

Given the fact that Covid-19 is in no way comparable to seasonal flu (it requires hospitalization in 20% of cases on average and kills 10 to 80 times more than influenza depending on the measures taken by the governments), it is clear that our hospitals and hospital staff will soon be overwhelmed throughout Switzerland, even if they are well prepared and that all available resources are ready to be put to use. We do not yet know all the effects of this new virus and it is plausible that, after a first wave, we will be affected by a second wave or even a third wave, as was the case with the Spanish flu. We do not know how virulent these next waves will be, but it is likely that our daily lives will be permanently affected, not just until April, but for many months to come. We must prepare for it.

This unprecedented health situation led the political and tourist authorities of Bagnes to ask the owners of secondary homes not to go to the resort and to follow the watchword of the Federal Council “Stay at home”. We support this request.

We will keep you regularly informed of developments in Verbier. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Sincerely yours,

Brigitte Borel

APCAV President