Coronavirus update – a personal view from Switzerland

Over the past 15 and a half years, I have had many reasons to be thankful and very grateful that I live in Switzerland, but, perhaps, none more so than during the current Coronavirus situation.

When the outbreak started, (it was so long ago now, I forget the exact date), Switzerland was one of the first affected regions in Europe. The lockdown came very quickly, with shops closed, a limit of no more than 5 people in a group and social distancing everywhere.

I recall checking the “Worldometers” website and seeing that the Swiss were ahead of the UK, at least in terms of cases, if not number of deaths, for several days. In the most unwanted league table (unless you are an American President perhaps?) the Swiss were in the top 10 – possibly ‘peaking’ at number 4 or 5. This was not good news for a country with no more than 8.65 million inhabitants.

Wind forward a few months and, while the virus still takes its toll all around the world, based on the figures from yesterday, I see that Switzerland are now down to number 31 in terms of Total Cases. But does this relative ‘improvement’, or worsening for those now in the top 30, tell the whole story?

If you sort the table by Active Cases, the Swiss drop to number 99 with 454 cases. Though that could be as low as 103rd as it seems the UK, Spain, Netherlands and Sweden don’t declare (or maybe don’t know) the number of Active cases. (The Worldometers website simply says N/A). To put that number into context, 454 is less Active Cases than the Maldives, Norway and Australia.

And then, if we consider New Cases, at least based on the figures from yesterday, the Swiss are 123rd (equal with Zimbabwe and Cyprus), with only 3 new cases reported. In effect, the virus has been brought under control and Contact Tracing is now in place to investigate and keep on top of any new cases.

So how did they achieve this I wonder? Well, I don’t know for sure, but I would speculate that a lot of it is due to the national psyche of the Swiss. They are conditioned to follow rules. (Well, at least most people are – there are always a few in every society unfortunately). They have rules which many might find a bit silly, like, you should not make any unnecessary loud noise (like DIY drilling, strimming or playing loud music) to disturb the peace and tranquility of the neighbourhood, before 7am, between 12 noon and 1pm and after 7pm – and certainly not at anytime on a Sunday or a Public Holiday. Cars have to be washed at a dedicated facility, not on your drive or wherever. The list goes on… (I have thought I should blog about some of these rules, but it becomes a way of life…)

Unlike the UK, the nation doesn’t have to be thanked for doing well and be urged to continue to follow the government advice, it’s simply expected of everyone, by everyone. You will also never find the Swiss bragging or gloating about how well they have handled the situation, they are far too modest for that and would probably consider it rather vulgar to do so. (It would be like Roger Federer saying, “Yes, of course I am the greatest tennis player of all time!” and then repeating that in French, German and Italian, just to emphasise the point. It’s just never going to happen).

Nor will you find them today dancing in the streets and celebrating their success. They are far too cautious to think it’s all over. We are still only in the 2nd phase of the de-confinement, though the 3rd phase starts in about a week. Gatherings of more than 1,000 are still banned until the end of August and social distancing is still in place wherever you go. As I say, the Swiss like to stick to their rules and I, for one, am sincerely glad that they do and I applaud them for it. (If I had a Swiss flag icon, I would fly it proudly here – on their behalf of course!)

Below are some stats taken from the Worldometers website together with a picture of an Idas Blue butterfly which I took on Sunday. I’ve been trying to find an excuse to post it and I hope it brightens up your day! 😊

Coronavirus update – a view from Switzerland

I’ve been encouraged by Stephen at Fractured Faith Blog to write a few words on our experiences during this ‘crisis’ period. After all, the Blogosphere is one big inter-connected and generally very supportive community. 😊 Since I might be one of the few people you might follow in Switzerland, I thought I’d give you some insights into how things are in what is generally considered a well ordered country.

We have been in lockdown mode for around 4 weeks now. Unlike France, where you need to stay within a kilometre of your home and have a piece of paper indicating the reason for not staying in, we are allowed out (but encouraged not to travel unless it’s absolutely necessary – though see below).

Like a lot of countries, we had some panic buying initially. Even in our small village, the shelves were cleared of pasta for the first few days, but normality was soon restored. The ‘Co-op’ restricts the numbers entering to about a dozen (it’s not a huge shop, but not small either) and lines are clearly marked on the floor where you must stand to respect the 2 metre rule at the checkout. Only one person is allowed at either end of the conveyor belt. So if the person in front has a lot of shopping to pack, you have to stand and wait until they’ve finished before it’s your turn. There is also hand-wash at the entrance/exit which you are asked to use. The manager told me the other day that he had not heard of any cases in our valley, which is somewhat comforting, because…

My wife and I often sit on our balcony and watch the world go by. Normally there are very few people around and about, I guess that’s because they are normally at work or have better things to do. But recently we have seen groups of up to 8 congregating and having ‘garden parties’, when the Swiss rule is no gatherings of more than 5. Not only that but one of our neighbours was actually sharing a fondue with his partner and another neighbour, which we thought was unbelievable.

Another annoyance to us is to see ‘outsiders’ arriving in the valley. Last week we observed one Austrian car and several French number plates. These countries have closed their borders to incomers, so why do they feel it necessary to travel out of their own country? In addition, all Swiss cars have a 2 character canton prefix on their number plate indicating their owner’s origin (like GE for Geneva and FR for Fribourg) and we’ve regularly observed non-Valaisan (VS) cars in and around our neighbourhood. Many Swiss have second homes and come up and/or invite their friends for the weekend, despite this being discouraged by the authorities. The Swiss are normally very good at following the rules, but even they seem to balk at the very idea sometimes.

On a more positive note, it has meant we’ve managed to get a few little jobs done around the house and my wife, Judith, has turned her hand to baking bread (and very successfully I might add – see pics below) to save us going to the shop too often. (Bread goes hard very rapidly in the dry atmosphere of the Alps!)

Anyway, that’s my little ‘piece’ said. Please feel free to Comment and/or post some of your own personal experiences.

Stay safe everyone.

Mike’s Music Monday #42

I believe the third Monday in January is often referred to as Blue Monday as it’s meant to be the most depressing day of the year.  Well, not today my friends…  I sincerely hope this song by M People gets your foot tapping and brings a huge smile to your face.  I dedicate this post to all my loyal followers, because without you, this blog would not have any purpose.  Please enjoy!  😁

Mike’s Music Monday #41

I’m pretty sure that it’s still the pantomime season in the UK.  So this “Fresh” video by Kool and the Gang is a great way of celebrating this wonderful British tradition.

“Oh no it isn’t” I hear you say…

“Oh, yes it is!”  I reply… 🤣😂

Oh, how I miss Berwick Kaler at the York Theatre.  He was an institution.

Snowman update II

In case you missed Snowman update I – please catch up here.

I should have mentioned that my brother and his 2 sons had dubbed the snowman “MJ”, due to the way he was leaning like Michael Jackson in Smooth Criminal.  (If you don’t know what I mean, you can watch it here).  But now I think we need to refer to him as Elton because, if he could talk, he’d be saying, or even singing, “I’m still standing“.

Yesterday morning he’d leaned over so far backwards his head way was a mere 8 to 10 inches off the snow behind and by late afternoon that had reduced to a mere 4 to 5 inches.  However a severe crack had opened up at the base, so I didn’t think he’d last the night…

Just in case you think he’s propped up in any way by a broom or something on the far side, here’s a picture taken from the front:

8th Jan am V

But it seems Elton is a fighter and this morning he was still there, with his head just resting gently on the snow… 😊  Surely the laws of physics will take over soon?

Snowman update…

You may recall from my Fun in the Snow post last week, that my brother, with only a little help from his 2 sons, built a snowman in our garden.  That was on Friday, 27th December.  Picture 29, taken on new year’s day, showed that it had started to lean backwards.  (I presume this was due to the sun on its back rather than my brother’s snowman building skills).

Well, I’m happy to report, all you Raymond Briggs fans, that, almost a week later, the snowman is still alive and well, though now leaning over quite remarkably.  At least it will be able to enjoy looking at the stars without getting a crick in its neck. 😊

Snowman, 7th Jan

Southern Finland

The remainder of our holiday was spent on the Finnish mainland.  After catching the ferry back from Brändö, we drove up the west coast via the beautiful, UNESCO World Heritage town of Rauma and then on to Yyteri beach, which is one of the longest sandy beaches in Scandinavia at around 6km.  From there we turned east to our base for the next 4 nights, which was a self-catering wooden lodge, or chalet, next to Lake Vesijako.

We returned to spend 2 more nights in the delightful city of Turku, which is the oldest town in Finland, with stops en route at the towns of Lammi and Hämeenlinna

Some other things I learnt during this trip (which you might also like to know):

  • As well as having thousands of islands, there are 100’s if not also thousands of lakes in Finland as well (and the Finns take great advantage of these by having weekend lodges close by).
  • There are a huge number and variety of mushrooms and toadstools in the woods. (During one walk, I met a man and his wife foraging.  They had collected at least one big bucket load of one particular type).
  • The woods are not all conifers as I imagined they might be.  There appears to be an equal number of deciduous trees as well.
  • The people are extremely welcoming and friendly.
  • The Finnish language seems to specialise in very long words, which often include double A’s, E’s, I’s, K’s, M’s, N’s or U’s.  The longest word I encountered, which I don’t think is exceptional, was 25 letters long.
  • I don’t know the significance, but many (most?) street or track names end in ‘antie’, ‘entie’, ‘ontie’ or ‘untie’.
  • The peak summer holiday season is from mid-June to mid-August and, before and after that period, you may find some things are not running or closed.  (Though the ferries appear to run all year round – when it’s not completely iced over of course!)
  • In the depths of winter, when conditions allow, it’s possible to drive over the ice to some islands. (No doubt special tyres and a brave or trusting nature are required for this).
  • Last, but by no means least, the beer in Finland (and Stockholm) is pretty good.  They certainly know how to make a tasty IPA. 😊 Cheers! 🍻

Ferpècle valley walk (and glacier ‘hole’ update)

A few weeks ago, my friend Matt asked me what had happened to the hole in the Ferpècle glacier.  I told him that it had collapsed last year, but I hadn’t been up there recently to see what the latest was.  So off I went on Wednesday to provide this report…

Although my photo from last year is not really comparable, as it was taken from above, near the Bricola hut, it is clear the collapsed ‘end’ of the glacier no longer exists and the whole glacier must have receded somewhere between 20 and 50 metres.  (It’s hard to gauge when you are standing maybe 500 metres away).  Perhaps a better comparison can be made with these two  photos though they were taken 2 years ago.

I also came across what must be one of the smallest species of frog in the world.  The little creature in picture 14 was no bigger than my little finger nail.  How they survive through the winter, when this whole area is covered in snow and ice for several months, is a complete mystery to me.

WordPress ‘Next’ button issue on Photo Gallery

Hello all.  I’m advised by Judith that when you select a photo (usually the first one I guess) from any email that you may get due to my (and maybe other’s) posts, the ‘Next’ button (displayed above and to the right of the image) takes you to the last picture in the gallery.  The ‘Previous’ button will then take you backwards through the carousel of photos, (which is not ideal, given that I now always take care to publish them in sequence).

A quick search of Google reveals that this may be an issue reported to the WordPress developers (which clearly hasn’t been fixed yet).   So, to counteract this, I suggest either simply clicking on the image (as this seems to move to the next picture) or use the right arrow button on your keyboard.  (Strangely though the back arrow doesn’t seem to go backwards!)

Alternatively, if you click on the title of the post in your email, it will take you to my site, where everything (I think) works as you might expect.

(For a moment there I almost missed my days working in IT.  I’ll go for a lie down now and hope it passes!) 🙂

Happy Birthday Dad !

I’m very proud to announce that today is my dad’s 93rd birthday !  He’s a remarkable man with many stories to tell which, thankfully, he’s still able to recount to anyone who’s prepared to listen.  So I think he deserves a mention.

Born and raised in Isleworth to the south east of London (England), my dad left school early to join the Navy.  He travelled the world by boat, including Brazil, Australia and Malta, but it wasn’t until his early 80’s he got on a plane to visit us in Switzerland.

The secret of his longevity ?  Who knows ?  He survived a heart heart attack waaaay back in 1968 and, as a result, altered his diet (for a while anyway).  Nowadays he hardly ever drinks alcohol and loves nothing better than a corn beef sandwich for his lunch. 🙂

Happy birthday dad – hope you have a great day !

mikes-dad-bob