GENEVA: An infant has died from the coronavirus in Switzerland, its first child fatality from the pandemic, authorities said on Friday.

Switzerland registered two new virus deaths in the past 24 hours, one of which was the infant, said Stefan Kuster, the new head of the country’s coronavirus crisis response.

“This was not a school-age child. It was an infant who died” in the northern canton of Argau, he told reporters.

“Children are less likely to fall ill (with Covid-19) than adults, and they are less infectious,” Kuster said, noting however that “such cases are possible.” He said the infant had been treated at a Zurich hospital, but did not say whether it had suffered from pre-existing medical conditions.

According to the Swiss health ministry, the child was infected with the coronavirus “abroad”, without providing further details.

According to the ATS news agency, two other school-aged children, a brother and sister, contracted the virus near Basel, forcing 70 people into isolation.

Switzerland has now registered more than 30,700 confirmed cases of Covid-19, and 1,656 deaths.

The wealthy Alpine nation of 8.5 million people thus counts 359 cases for every 100,000 inhabitants.

In the past 24 hours, 32 new cases were registered, slightly more than a week earlier, when between 10 and 20 new cases were registered each day.

The current rate nonetheless remains far below the daily average of more than 1,000 cases in March.

With case numbers declining, Switzerland, like many other European countries, has since April 27 been gradually lifting restrictions put in place to halt the spread of the virus.

Most schools have reopened, as have restaurants, bars and shops, on condition that they put in place physical distancing and other protective measures.

The country, which stopped short of imposing strict confinement, announced a third phase in the easing process this week, allowing events with up to 300 people as of June 6.

In addition, all leisure and entertainment venues and tourist attractions are to be permitted to reopen.

The country is due to reopen borders with France, Germany and Austria on June 15.

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2020