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’.
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.