This Easter was radically different because of the Corona virus lock-down. There were no events going on and the churches were empty. Some activity was online, some simply did not take place. Simultaneously, the weather was beautiful and warm. We activated the roof terrace and had a family brunch. There was time for walks on Uetliberg. And we celebrated by not doing anything much online for four days, after four weeks of online conferencing and “home office”
The beginning of 2020 seemed to go well, except for an epidemic with dramatic lock-down in China. The Wuhan area was totally shut off from the outside. Until it reached Italy, and then the rest of Europe.
In Switzerland, we also progressed through all stages of curbing of personal freedom:
- 25 February: first COVID-19 case in Switzerland, restrictions on travel from certain areas, 14-day quarantine for people returning from countries like China, Italy, etc.
- 26 February: SARS-CoV-2 (virus) and COVID-19 (the illness) declared to be a pandemic by the WHO
- 28 February: events over 1000 are banned in Switzerland
- 2 March: quarantine period increased to 21 days, self-quarantine with flu symptoms, Basel Fasnacht cancelled
- 4 March: preparations for home office working begin (taking of laptops home each day)
- 6 March: large events forbidden (200 and over), restrictions for gatherings in enclosed rooms
- 10 March: further limitations announced, preparations for shutting of borders started
- 11 March: global pandemic declared by WHO
- 13 March: schools and other institutions shut from 16 March, preparation for online work
- 16 March: National Emergency declared by the federal government
- 17 March: home working required for all except essential services, no more cultural events, most shops and restaurants closed, gatherings forbidden, 2 m social distancing, borders essentially closed (also in many other European countries)
- 20 March: no groups larger than five allowed outside, only leave home for essential matters, significant number of cases in Switzerland
- 27 March: rate of doubling of cases has dropped off significantly (currently doubling in 7.4 days)
- 30 March: doubling rate is now 9.2 days
- 5 April: doubling rate is now 16 days
- 6 April: good news – the number of new cases in Switzerland is being balanced for the first time by the number of recoveries; the doubling rate is now 19 days
- 12 April, Easter Sunday: doubling rate is now 34 days
- 13 April, Easter Monday: doubling rate is now 41 days
- 15 April: doubling rate 56 days, 26 264 infected, 1242 dead in Switzerland
- 16 April: successive re-opening plan announced by the Government on three dates – 27 April, 11 May, 8 June (current plan!)
- 20 April, no Sechseläuten in Zurich: doubling rate 61 days, 27 469 infected, 1397 dead in Switzerland
- 21 April: doubling rate 83 days, 27 822 infected, 1482 dead in Switzerland
- 26 April, end of week 6: doubling rate 146 days, 28 683 infected, 1614 dead in Switzerland. Six weeks without any rainfall!
- 27 April, week 7: finally, rain during the night! Start of first opening up stage in Switzerland: garden centres, coiffeurs, routine hospital operations, doctors and dentists, etc.
- 29 April: USA surpasses one million infection cases
- 11 May, week 9: second opening up stage in Switzerland: shops, schools and restaurants open with restrictions. 30 172 infected, 1846 deaths in Switzerland. Over 1.3 million cases in the USA
- 18 May, week 10: 30 482 infected, 1881 deaths in Switzerland
- 25 May, week 11: 30 664 infected, 1906 deaths in Switzerland
- 27 May: the end of lockdown is announced and the intention to stop the emergency situation on 19 June. Meetings up to 30 and events up to 300 persons allowed from 30 May. Tracing and personal quarantine for infected people and those who they have contacted. Switzerland: 30 758 infections and 1919 deaths. USA: 1.7 million infections and over 100 000 deaths to date
- 10 June: lockdown was almost fully removed this week (6-8 June) – some retrictions on gatherings (30 in private, 300 in a public space) and other hygiene aspects remain. Still discussion ongoing about masks, particularly in public transport. Current Swiss statistics: nearly 31 000 infections and 1935 deaths.
This year is set to be the warmest winter on record in Zurich since records began well over 100 years ago. Temperatures hardly went under zero. We did have snow a couple of times, but it didn’t stay around for more than a few hours. What we did have was excessively strong stormy winds. Maybe this is the new normal as a result of climate warming. It is probably a bit too soon to tell.
A couple of spare journey slots on an Interrail ticket meant that a weekend trip to Strasbourg would be possible at a reduced price, so we went for it and spent a very pleasant two days in a splendid, small spa hotel in the old town of Strasbourg (the whole town was decorated for St. Valentine’s Day). Lots of walking in the old town and a river trip. A highlight was the cathedral and its amazing 200 year old astronomical clock, complete with apostels, Jesus and a crowing cockerel
After six years of “Wirtschaftswochen” teaching in Switzerland, David is entitled to go to one of the foreign Swiss schools. As one of these is in Madrid, where Eva teaches, this was the perfect excuse to visit her and Miguel in Madrid, and to show Urs around! David and Urs had a really fun week and really enjoyed the lively Spanish young people – they enjoyed it too!
Of course, David did not fly to Madrid (for environmental reasons), but took the train (around 15 hours travel each way!). Despite threats that the French train strikes would not end in time, the whole journey went without a hitch, proving that the European high speed trains are on the right track, even if it took many hours to book the journey and it cost more than flying ;-( On the way back, David broke his journey in Barcelona, which was also very pleasant.