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BERNE, Switzerland: The virus SARS-CoV-2 has a firm grip on the world and is affecting how people live their daily lives. In Switzerland, as in many other countries, the government is making a clear demand on its citizens to stay at home, and gatherings in public places of more than five people are banned. Healthcare facilities are not included in this ban; however, the Federal Council has prohibited dental surgeries from carrying out non-urgent examinations and therapy until the Federal Council directive is repealed.
Nationwide, SARS-CoV-2 is presenting dental practices with major challenges. Falling sales, loss of working hours, and a lack of hygiene equipment and protective clothing are among the greatest hurdles that have to be overcome, and this situation has already led to numerous closures. In addition, despite all hygiene measures, aerosols and the unavoidable proximity to the patients can lead to a rapid spread of the virus, especially in the dentist’s chair.
In an interview with Swiss regional TV station Telebasel, Dr Christoph Villiger, who is president of the Swiss Dental Association (SSO) branch in Basel, explained that dentists are taking a huge risk. He added that, in his practice, additional measures are only applied to patients and staff in the reception and waiting room. However, staff are also reduced to a minimum. “Everything is reduced; the daily work routine is completely different,” said Villiger. It can happen that not a single patient comes to the dentist’s surgery in a working day.
Serious situation leads to extraordinary measures
In a policy paper valid from 23 March, the Swiss Association of Cantonal Chief Dental Officers (SACCDO) has published directions for the operation of a dental practice during the COVID-19 pandemic. To limit further infections in dental offices, it was decided that treatments that can be carried out at a later date without the person concerned suffering disadvantages that go beyond minor physical and psychological complaints and impairments have to be postponed. Treatments that are intended primarily or wholly for aesthetic purposes, performance enhancement or well-being are also to be postponed under this directive.
In particular, SACCDO points out that dental hygiene and prophylaxis sessions, dental check-ups and caries restoration are not urgent indications. Furthermore, prosthetic work and elective surgical procedures are not considered urgent and must therefore be postponed. In orthodontics, only non-scheduled progress checks and orthodontic emergencies are permitted. Active appliances are to be adjusted to passive or stable.
Financial relief is on the way
Dr Jean-Philippe Haesler, SSO president, stressed the importance of these measures in a press release. “I can assure you that, as a dentist and owner of my own practice, I am fully aware of the economic implications of this decision. The practices must massively restrict their activities and limit themselves to urgent procedures and treatments. Economic considerations must not in any way influence our actions, which we are now forced to take in accordance with the Federal Council's guidelines,” he said.
To take the financial pressure off of employers and employees alike, the Federal Council approved a comprehensive package of measures totalling CHF 32 billion (€30 billion) to cushion the economic consequences of the spread of the coronavirus. Together with the measures already approved on 13 March, over CHF 40 billion (€37 billion) should be available.
With bridging loans, also known as COVID-19 loans, affected companies are being supported as unbureaucratically, specifically and quickly as possible. Loan applications can be submitted until 31 July 2020.
SSO congress and DENTAL BERN postponed
The 2020 SSO congress and DENTAL BERN 2020—two of the largest and most important dental shows in the country—were scheduled to take place in the Swiss capital of Berne from 2 to 4 April. The events have been postponed owing to the spread of SARS-CoV-2. They will now be held from 27 to 29 August 2020. By postponing these events, the SSO and Swiss Dental Events are prioritising the health of all congress participants and exhibitors, which is undoubtedly of the utmost importance.
In addition, the 2020 SSO assembly will be conducted in writing. On 24 March, the board of directors decided that the assembly, which was planned to take place on 2 May 2020, cannot be carried out physically owing to the COVID-19 pandemic and must therefore be conducted at a distance.
By 1 April, there were 15,412 confirmed cases and 295 deaths reported in Switzerland, according to the World Health Organization.
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