Swiss Sunday: Coronavirus Version

by Evil HR Lady on March 1, 2020

Usually, I’d be at church on a Sunday morning, but today I’m home because church meetings have been canceled. The canton recommended it, and our church leaders decided it was a good idea.

The federal government prohibited all gatherings of more than 1000 people and recommended no more than 200. That means that Basel’s Fasnacht is canceled.

This is the largest Fasnacht celebration in Europe, as far as I know. You may wonder why it’s after Ash Wednesday instead of before. My understanding (don’t quote me on it–I’m no authority) is that about 500 years ago, there was a war between the Catholics and the Protestants in Basel. The Protestants won. They loved the big Fasnacht party the Catholics threw, but certainly didn’t want any of the Catholics attending. Solution? Move the party after Ash Wednesday, so the Catholics were in Lent and couldn’t come to a party.

I suppose that was effective in 15–whatever, but not so much now. Anyway, it’s three days of parades and parties, and it’s very important to the locals.
Canceling is extremely rare. They canceled during WWI and WWII and the Spanish Flu outbreak. Otherwise, rain or shine, snow or sleet, everyone is marching.

This year they also banned the groups from marching on their own, but I don’t know what will happen. I passed a group of people having an animated conversation about what they’d do, but I didn’t stop to find out. Plus, eavesdropping on Swiss German discussions is difficult.
Because Basel is truly a global city (49 percent Swiss, 51 percent foreign), there’s a lot of travel going on. Plus, we have the European headquarters for several pharmaceutical companies with a ton of travel. This means Coronovirus was inevitable.

Basel has one diagnosed case (a daycare worker), and the daycare has been closed all the children quarantined–100 people. I don’t know if that means there are 100 targeted people quarantined with their families, or if there are 100 people in total off the streets.

I was worried that panic would ensue.

So far, it appears to be business as usual. No panicking at the grocery store. People are on the streets like every day. (Basel has fantastic public transportation, and parking is terrible, so you see a lot of people walking. I don’t own a car, so I walk as well.)

The expat Facebook groups are stressed–which is understandable. But, overall, it’s pretty darn calm. Sure, you can’t get hand sanitizer or masks, but the grocery store shelves are full.

I have been preparing for weeks and have enough chocolate to see us through any quarantine. Oh, and actual nutritious food as well, but I have my priorities straight.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Terrie March 1, 2020 at 2:23 pm

Thank you for posting. As an HR professional who has employees in Basel, I enjoy your updates and local perspectives. We have several Expats there who are worried, but managing.

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Elizabeth West March 1, 2020 at 4:29 pm

I hope you’re all doing well, Suzanne. Here in St. Louis, the news reported that 20 people who may have been exposed to COVID-19 are being monitored. We don’t know anything more than that yet. Experts have said you don’t really need a mask unless you’re actually sick. The surgical masks you see people wearing only keep droplets in, not viruses out.

Since Americans don’t get much (if any) sick leave, we ought to just make it a thing to wear them like they do in Asia. I’ve had way too many coworkers who cough all over everything!

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BethRA March 1, 2020 at 9:23 pm

Good call on the chocolate 😉

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Kelley March 2, 2020 at 7:17 pm

Hi Suzanne – I’m with you. I live in Kirkland, WA, about two miles from the hospital where the first two Covid-19 deaths in the US occurred. I’m ready, but not panicking, stressing to staff to take precautions, use good hygiene, don’t travel if it’s not critical, and be prepared. And chocolate supply certainly had a prioritized spot in my personal preparations. 🙂 Good luck and keep us posted from Basel!

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