We may be in the grip of a new coronavirus, but one of the main remedies—quarantine—is centuries old and so is Lausanne's method of reminding and reinforcing the urgency. The Swiss city has its night watchman ringing the city's huge emergency bell in the cathedral tower.
The bell, called La Clemence, weighs 3.4 tonnes, and resonates six other bells in the tower. The night watchman, who calls the hour from the tower every night from 8 pm to 2 am, is one of the last in Europe. In older times, every town had one, stationed high above the city and watching others on the ground to give alarm for fires, invasions or floods.
TheLocal.ch counts six other European cities with night watchmen: Annaberg, Celle and Nordlingen in Germany, Ripon in England, Krakow in Poland and Ystad in Sweden.
Renato Haeusler, Lausanne's watchman since 2002, says the usually lively university town has changed abruptly. He told local press that "Since these restrictive measures urging people to stay at home, it has completely changed. It is quiet all week, even from 8:00pm, and when I get here, there is hardly any activity around the cathedral or even in the city so it brings a tranquility that I have never experienced before.
"There is a real calm which resembles what it would have been like in the past, before there was all this traffic noise. There is perhaps just one last thing that would bring us right back to how things were in the Middle Ages: turning out the lights."