Geneva baby’s arrival shows life goes on amid coronavirus chaos


GENEVA (Reuters) – Her parents were infected with COVID-19 last month, the maternity unit was operating under lockdown and their relatives live across closed borders, yet like millions of other babies, Bertille arrived without a hitch.

Arnaud Joal, a 34-year-old Frenchman, and Noemie Bouchet, a 30-year-old citizen of France and Switzerland, welcomed Bertille – for “heroine” or “bright maiden” – into the world in Geneva on April 9.

Pregnant women worldwide are concerned about the possible impact of COVID-19, but Bouchet, a gynaecologist, said she was optimistic the disease would leave no trace on Bertille, beyond regular tales of the unusual backdrop of her birth.

“The data for newborns are quite reassuring, there are few risks that they get infected, even fewer risks that complications occur,” she said.

The coronavirus epidemic forced Bouchet and Joal – a fellow gynaecologist at Geneva’s university hospital – to spend less time than usual in the maternity unit, where stays as well as visits are limited.

They were both infected a month ago with COVID-19, suffering relatively minor symptoms of the disease whose death toll in Switzerland reached 900 on Tuesday and confirmed cases number some 25,834.

Border closures and French confinement measures bar their families, who live over the border in nearby France, from visiting their newest family member.

And with most stores closed in Switzerland, Joal said they were borrowing baby clothes until the restrictions are loosened.

As for relatives in France, there have been video calls, but the couple is resigned to waiting to introduce their baby in person: French President Emmanuel Macron extended his country’s lockdown until May 11, even as Switzerland plans to start loosening restrictions later this month.

“Her grandmothers will remind her that they were not able to see her right away and that it was difficult!” Bouchet said.

Reporting by Cecile Mantovani, writing by John Miller; editing by Philippa Fletcher