I’m coming out of my hiatus as I am, somewhat ironically, entering another. On Friday afternoon, just over 48 hours ago, Switzerland went into lock down due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
We all knew it was coming – the virus of course but also the inevitable response. It’s still somehow shocking, though. There had been speculation and lesser measures imposed over the last few weeks: colleagues being quarantined due to working in specific locations, signage appearing everywhere, the disappearance of both hand sanitiser and toilet paper, the quintessentially Swiss triple-kiss greeting temporarily retired.
It sort of feels like we’re actors at the start of a bad movie. (We’re currently watching Contagion, and I guess if I go it may as well be as dramatically as good ol’ Gwyneth. Although truth be told I’d prefer to ‘go down to the Winchester, have a nice cold pint, and wait for this all to blow over’, so maybe we’ll choose that apocalyptic ending instead.) The range of responses have been interesting: the lunch date who proudly informed me she’d filled two trolleys and that her cellar was totally inhabitable, through to the person who calmly told Tim after a meeting that the virus is a natural response to overpopulation. There are people who think it’s a hoax and those who haven’t come to work in weeks after they heard about what was happening in Italy.
We’re working on being calm but cautious. We’ve stocked up on the ‘essentials’ but haven’t gone nuts. If my kids miraculously took to eating lentils and barley and the other miscellany lurking in the pantry we could easily survive six weeks without going hungry. They wouldn’t be a particularly delicious six weeks, but we’d make it. Due to the depleted hand sanitiser stocks Tim bought glycerol and rubbing alcohol and we’re going to mix our own – I figure it can double as a craft project for the kids (there’s not enough glitter in commercial hand sanitisers anyway). The brats have learned to cough into their elbows (although I suspect Teddy is still licking things in passing, so that sort of defeats the point) and our toilet paper supplies, while not ludicrous, are healthy. So I guess we’re ready.
Schools have been closed in Luzern until after Easter holidays – that’s six loooooooong weeks. The kita isn’t closed – yet – but it was recommended by the Stadt that they should only stay open to support families who cannot stay home (such as health care professionals). We’ve decided to keep Teddy with us, not just because we’re suckers for punishment but it seems to defeat the purpose of the quarantine if the most vulnerable member of our family is trotting off to a toddler cesspool every day (that, and his carers have elderly extended family who are at much higher risk than us, so it seems an unfair risk to take just for some time away from the little guy). Tim and I will be working from home (oh! by the way I am now gainfully and very happily employed! A lot happens in a year and a half, I guess), which will be challenging with the two small people underfoot but we’re hoping for the best. We’ve done some basic daily structuring to make sure they get both learning and physical exercise in but I think we all know Ryder and his team of pups are going to swoop in and save the day. All public places – swimming pools, libraries, galleries – are closed and public transport minimised. They tell me gyms are also shut but I wouldn’t know much about that. The borders are also closed, other than a small patch of the Swiss / Italian border to facilitate commuting workers. Despite these fairly intense measures, people generally seem fairly calm – but I’m basing that on the fact that there’s no overt looting rather than anything else.
Today was glorious, a perfect Swiss spring day (it’s arrived early this year, after an unprecedentedly warm winter, but that’s another human disaster story for another day). We all have coughs, and Teddy had a slight temperature over the weekend, so we spent most of the day looking longingly out the window. Such perfection makes the current situation even more surreal. It’s hard to say what the next month will bring, but for now I’m pleased to be with my family, to have work that is flexible enough to allow us to be together, to live in a country that is taking our health seriously. I’m also pleased about the lentils, but I’ll have to work harder to sell that one.