No engadine, hardly more fasnacht

No Engadine, hardly any more Fasnacht

No more Engadine, hardly any more Fasnacht

Eight coronavirus cases confirmed in Switzerland. And the federal government is adjusting to the fact that the number of infected people is now increasing daily.

Engadine ski marathon: cancelled. The Geneva Watch Fair: also. In Ticino field hockey games take place in front of empty stands, the carnival in southern Switzerland is cancelled without replacement. Whether the "Drey scheenschte Dääg" in Basel will suffer the same fate, the responsible health authorities want to announce on Friday. If the threat posed by the coronavirus in Switzerland seemed abstract a moment ago, the consequences that the fight against the spread of the virus could have for social life in the country became more tangible with each passing hour.

A total of eight people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Switzerland so far: Graubünden reported two infected children, and the cantons of Zurich, Basel, Geneva, Vaud, Aargau and Ticino reported one case each. In addition, there are two suspected cases in Basel. Most of those infected are likely to have contracted the disease in Italy.

Concern increased noticeably on Thursday

"In the last few hours, the level of concern in Switzerland has risen sharply," said Daniel Koch, head of the Communicable Diseases Division of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), as he appeared before the media. The federal government expects that the number of infected people in Switzerland will now increase daily.

All infected persons have been isolated, their contacts quarantined. "The current system will quickly reach its limits," admitted Koch. At the moment they are still trying to discover all the cases. As soon as this is no longer possible, the focus will be on the serious cases. Some cantons have already set up quarantine places, others not yet.

Currently, despite the recent incidents, Switzerland is still on the lowest of three alert levels under the Epidemic Law, the so-called "normal situation". If the situation worsens, the "special situation" or the "extraordinary situation" is declared. The decisive factor is a variety of factors and not the sheer number of confirmed Corona cases, Koch said.

"This is how we protect ourselves": first yellow, then red

In addition to announcing the respective level, the federal government also informs the population: Under the slogan "This is how we protect ourselves," posters and flyers in yellow signal colors remind people to wash their hands regularly, to sneeze into a handkerchief or the crook of their arm, and to stay at home if they have a fever or cough. If the situation worsens and the next stage of measures becomes necessary, the color of the advertising material will change from yellow to red.

The campaign appeals to the personal responsibility of the citizens, emphasized those responsible at the FOPH. Some companies already recommend their employees to refrain from shaking hands. The fact that not all bosses do this is not a problem for Koch: "At the moment, the companies are making their own assessments."

For their restrained communication, the responsible persons of the Confederation had to take criticism from expert circles in the past days. Now even parliamentarians express skepticism: the recommendations are well and good, tweeted the Green Bastien Girod. "Stupid only if hand disinfectant is sold out everywhere. The Federal Office of Public Health should have thought a little ahead instead of always saying that no measures are needed."Damian Müller, member of the Council of States for the Free Democratic Party (FDP), is on the same wavelength. "There is a lot of talk, but the implementation of the measures leaves a lot to be desired." The quality of the health minister shows in crisis situations, adds the Lucerne: "Federal Councillor Alain Berset is now measured by his concrete actions in favor of the Swiss people."

Wash your hands regularly, sneeze into the crook of your arm and stay home if you have a cough.

Felix Gutzwiller, a preventive physician from Zurich and former member of the Council of States for the FDP, puts it into perspective. "It is right for the Federal Office of Public Health to take a level-headed approach and not spread panic."The fact that the contact persons of the infected persons were immediately identified and quarantined shows that Switzerland is very well organized and can react adequately to positive test results. "Comprehensive measures, such as those taken by other countries, are not necessary."

Gutzwiller would have liked, however, that the measures between the cantons are better coordinated. "If field hockey games in Ticino are played in front of empty seats because of the virus, but take place normally in Bern, this unsettles the population."

Currently, this decision is solely in the hands of the cantons. So it's up to the Geneva authorities to decide whether the Motor Show will be canceled after the watch show. The federal government can, however, take the lead step by step if it declares the next higher levels in the epidemic law. "We are evaluating the situation with the cantons on a daily basis. We are also talking about the question about large events," said FOPH Director Pascal Strupler about it.

Masks are ready in the Federal Palace

When the spring session begins in Bern on Monday, hundreds of politicians and lobbyists from all parts of the country will meet each other. Not all parliamentarians are comfortable with the thought of being exposed to the hustle and bustle in the Wandelhalle for three weeks.

"I'm already worried to a certain extent," SVP parliamentary group president Thomas Aeschi was quoted as saying in "Blick". And pondered aloud "whether it makes sense, given the circumstances, for 246 parliamentarians – including some who travel a lot – to meet under one roof".

"There is a lot of talk, but the implementation of the measures leaves much to be desired."

Ruthhumbel (CVP), president of the National Council's health committee, is more relaxed about the session: "If anyone should be in a position to follow the FOPH's hygiene rules on their own responsibility, it is probably us parliamentarians." Those who have just returned from an affected region in Italy or elsewhere are urged to stay at home. "All the others are well served by washing their hands regularly."

The parliamentary services have already taken appropriate precautions, as they say on request. Soap and disinfectant dispensers are available in sufficient numbers at the Federal Palace, as are a reserve of hygiene masks, assures Division Manager Mark Stucki. In addition, a coronavirus task force has been set up to monitor the situation closely and – if necessary – take measures to protect the people's representatives.

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