Swiss authorities have voiced their concern about two sing-along yodeling concerts attended by 600 fans of the traditional singing that are now known to have been superspreader COVID-19 events that have turned a small Swiss canton into a hot spot as a second wave of the pandemic sweeps Europe.
People who attended the indoor performances in late September in the Schwyz canton were advised to socially distance, but not required to wear masks that would have impeded their yodeling.
The small village area now has a positivity rate of 50 percent (meaning half of all tests come back positive), making it the highest contagion rate in all of Europe, with case numbers doubling every day for the last week.
Beat Hegner, who organized the events, told a local Swiss TV station that they found out nine days after the event that several people from the main group of yodelers who attended both concerts were infected. “We can’t do anything about what happened with this yodeling group,” he said.
Face masks are still not required in the canton, but local hospital director Franziska Foellmi has asked that people wear them to stop the spread of the highly contagious virus and take pressure off the area hospital, which is under strain.
“It’s time we reacted,” Reto Nueesch, the hospital’s chief doctor said in the same TV interview. “The explosion in the number of cases in Schwyz is one of the worst in all of Europe.”
COVID-19 infections have been rising across Europe, with France recording a whopping 30,000 new cases in a 24-hour period on Thursday, which has led to curfews in cities like Paris. Italy, too, has seen higher numbers of infections than they did during the first wave when the country was the epicenter of the European outbreak.
Authorities blame schools reopening and a seeming reluctance by younger people to take the pandemic seriously for the new wave. Attempts to clamp down on night life have so far done little across the EU to mitigate the spread.
While yodeling is also popular in Austria’s Tyrol region and other Alpine areas, the Swiss canton is the first known instance of the traditional practice linked to a COVID-19 outbreak.