Our regular report from Bern, Switzerland, where the coronavirus scare has eclipsed politics and the Swiss duel with the EU.
ON Friday the Federal Councillor in charge of the Health Department, Alain Berset, announced immediate measures to protect the public from the risks of the coronavirus. News of more cases in Italy had made the Federal Council act with urgency.
I’m very glad that it’s Berset dealing with the epidemic. He’s probably the best of the current Federal Councillors, a good politician, especially good with the young.
At church yesterday morning we all had to sign to say that we hadn’t been to China the last fortnight – last time I was anywhere near was Hong Kong in 1989 – before we could sit down. We had to disinfect our hands, no communion, more serious still no zopf (Swiss Sunday bread) or chocolate washed down by coffee afterwards.
Switzerland has already confirmed 15 cases of the virus, and officials expect the outbreak to get worse because of the crisis over the border in northern Italy.
On Friday the Swiss government banned all events involving more than 1,000 people. The emergency measure will last until at least March 15.
Bern Cathedral has had to cancel its services. No Basel Carnival, no Basel Watch Expo, no Geneva Motor Show, no football matches, no big concerts. Health minister Alain Berset said that similar measures had proved ‘effective’ in other countries.
Taking a different approach, the national Swiss hockey league said all games this weekend will be played in empty stadiums.
There was snow last week and more expected this week. I’m going up to Murren tomorrow for a few days and will report from there. My wife is there already and tells me that she hasn’t seen anyone from China since she arrived. Last Christmas we thought we were in China.