Coronavirus: Life goes on in Switzerland but it’s far from business as usual

In the past few weeks, many aspects of social life in Switzerland have resumed. But the ‘new normal’ is still very up and down, writes Helena Bachmann.

Coronavirus: Life goes on in Switzerland but it's far from business as usual
Life is not quite back to normal in Switzerland. Photo by AFP

One way of looking at life in Switzerland these days is to compare it to a yo-yo. That’s because the situation here is marked by fluctuations from one extreme to another.

First, there is the growing number of infections.

During the month of June, the number of daily reported cases of Covid-19 was in the low two-digits. But as people started to move around, travel, and generally go back to their usual habits and behaviours, the numbers started to go up into triple digits, culminating, earlier this week, with 311 cases.

Certainly, this situation is not as catastrophic as it was at the height of the pandemic in April, when more than 1,000 cases a day had been reported.

And it is difficult to know what exactly this increase in numbers means, as even health experts can’t agree about how risky it is.

For some, the numbers indicate that the second wave is near (or already here). Others, like Switzerland’s Health Minister Alain Berset, are more reassuring, claiming that ‘corona is under control’. 

READ MORE: ‘Corona is under control’: Swiss government disputes claims of second coronavirus wave

People seem to be divided into two camps: those who believe things will get worse before they get better – if they ever do – and the ones with a more positive attitude.

The more optimistic ones say, in this French-speaking part of Switzerland, “la vie continue”, life goes on. They are the ones who are out on the street, in bars and restaurants, trying to enjoy life despite the invisible danger that lurks around them.

For better or for worse, they are the people I myself am surrounded with. Life is easier this way.

Then, there’s a matter of masks.

In April, the authorities said the use of masks was not compulsory. It later turned out that this guideline was driven by the shortage of masks at the beginning of the outbreak. 

The change in strategy happened at the end of April, when 90 million masks ordered by the army arrived in Switzerland, and authorities advised to cover the mouth and nose when the physical distance of 1.5 metres couldn't be respected.

Now masks are mandatory on all public transportation in Switzerland. Additionally, they are obligatory in stores in Geneva, Jura, Vaud, and Neuchâtel.

Photo by AFP

From Monday, they will also be required in bars, restaurants and shops in Basel.

Many people — expatriates and the Swiss alike — are wondering why, given the number of coronavirus cases, this requirement is not enforced by all the other cantons as well.

In my experience of living in a small town in Vaud, people are compliant with mask-wearing requirements, not only in shops and on public transport, but also at doctor's and dentist's offices, at hairdressers and massage therapists.

But from what I am hearing, people in larger cities are not always as disciplined.

Last, but certainly not least — the quarantine.

Since July 6th, health authorities are requiring people who are arriving from certain high-risk nations to self-quarantine for 10 days in order to protect Switzerland’s population from the infections that may be ‘imported’ from abroad.

However, judging from the testimonials The Local received from our readers, the quarantined people are rarely, if ever, monitored by the cantonal authorities to ensure that they are complying with the regulations.

The Local will publish an article about this on August 24th.

Among the biggest absurdities in this pandemic are the so-called ‘coronavirus conspiracies’, fuelled by the people who are skeptical about the existence of the pandemic and/or who oppose the current protection measures.

The next gathering of these non-believers / opposers will take place on August 29th in Zürich.

Of course, it is unlikely that any protesters will be wearing masks.

Many here are saying that those large, unprotected gatherings, rather than travellers returning from abroad, are the real reason for the spike in the number of infections.

But we may never know for sure.

One thing we know here: the new normal is very different to how things were before.

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Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival cancels concerts of unvaccinated British artists

Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival announced on Friday that it was forced to drop the acts of four UK-based artists from its summer program because they haven’t been fully vaccinated yet.

Switzerland's Montreux Jazz Festival cancels concerts of unvaccinated British artists
British singer-songwriter Rag'n'Bone Man was dropped from Montreux Jazx Festival. Photo: GUILLAUME SOUVANT / AFP

The move was done in order to comply with current Covid-19 entry rules into Switzerland, which state that from June 26th, travellers from outside the Schengen zone, including Brits, will only be allowed to enter Switzerland if they have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from the virus. 

READ ALSO: Switzerland relaxes travel rules for vaccinated Americans and Brits: What you need to know

British soul singer Rag’n’Bone Man who was one of the headliners for the 2021 edition of the festival, which starts on July 2nd, will now no longer be able to attend due to not being fully vaccinated.

Other unvaccinated acts based in the UK who were also dropped because of the new entry rules include Inhaler, Alfa Mist and the Yussef Dayes Trio.

The artists have already been replaced with other performers from around Europe including Italian singer Zucchero, Woodkid, Dutch songwriter Benny Sings and Danish jazz trio Athletic Progression.

In a statement on June 25th, festival organisers said they were trying to make sure that the concerts of the other UK artists would continue to go ahead, however it is tricky because of fears over the Delta strain of the Covid virus, which has now become dominant in Britain.

“Whether or not these artists can come depends on their vaccination status and that of their touring entourage, as well as their ability to quarantine at the start of their European tour or before their concert at Montreux,” they said.

The Montreux Jazz Festival is one of just a small handful of big music festivals in Switzerland that will still go ahead this summer. Other music events such as St Gallen Open-Air, Paléo and Bern’s Gurten festival have been cancelled for the second year in a row, due to ongoing fears over the Covid-19 virus.

READ ALSO: UPDATE: What rules do European countries have for travellers from the UK?