Switzerland has stopped alcohol breath tests after experts warned a drink-driver who sucked instead of blowing could potentially be infected by the coronavirus.
But they added that the number of people on the road drink-driving had apparently fallen dramatically ever since the bars and restaurants were closed in order to reduce infections.
The government decided to stop doing the tests after it was revealed the disease was spreading in the country that has now suffered 16,605 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the Johns Hopkins University.
In response to a query by local media, Zurich police press officer Ralph Hirt said: “It is correct that we are currently not able to carry out breath tests when there is a suspicion that the driver has been drinking.”
He confirmed that this is because of the risk of infection from the coronavirus. He said the driver was expected to blow constantly into a tube which could easily result in droplets being released.
He said these could easily get into the machine or into the air posing a threat to police officers and others that might later use the machine.
He added: “It is simply too dangerous with the Corona virus pandemic and therefore we are no longer using the devices.”
The policy is apparently also been introduced in other police forces across the country such as in eastern Switzerland in St Gallen where press spokesman Florian Schneide confirmed: “… we also came to the conclusion and we are currently refraining from doing these tests whenever possible.”
He said they had expanded already very strict hygiene measures including replacing the mouthpieces and constantly disinfecting the devices, but added that it was still deemed a risk if a drunken person “accidentally sucked instead of blowing.” He said that in these circumstances there was “simply a certain risk”.
Police have said however that in exceptional circumstances they can still arrest the driver and order a blood test.
Swiss road safety organisation Road Cross backed the police decision but said it should not be postponed indefinitely.
The organisation’s spokesman, founder Mike Egle, said: “The security of the police officers comes first. However, road safety is also important. Therefore, it would be good to check first whether controls could be carried out with suitable protective measures. If the current situation persists, it would certainly be important to develop a suitable breath test.”
In 2014, Switzerland passed a law requiring new drivers to be ‘alcohol-free’ before driving.
While regular drivers must measure below 0.5 grams alcohol per kilogram of blood, 38 percent lower than the UK, where the alcohol limit is 0.8 grams of alcohol for all the drivers.
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Story By: Anastasia Smirnova, Sub-Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Newsflash
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