Is it safe to share a fondue? The Covid-19 question gripping Switzerland

‘The risk is not in the fondue pot but in the gathering,’ a restaurant manager says

A waiter wearing a protective face mask bring to a couple a fondue, the beloved Swiss national dish of cheese melted down with white wine in a "caquelon" pot heated by an open flame in a former ski gondola at Restaurant Marzilibruecke in Bern, on November 16, 2020.

 As Switzerland contends with one of the worst coronavirus surges in Europe, the Swiss are gripped by one melting hot question: is it still safe to share a fondue? - TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY AGNES PEDRERO AND VIDEO BY ELOI ROUYER
 / AFP / STEFAN WERMUTH / TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY AGNES PEDRERO AND VIDEO BY ELOI ROUYER

Switzerland is worried that the coronavirus pandemic could kill its national dish.
The famed pot of melting cheese, along with white wine and open flames, is designed for sharing with friends and family, making it particularly unsuitable for practising safe social distancing.

In Switzerland, health experts, chefs and the internet are all weighing in on the future of fondue and how best to experience it in a lockdown world.
"The problem arises if you are seated together in a small space for an evening, and are talking loudly, laughing or even singing. These are ideal conditions for spreading the virus," said Professor Christian Ruef, a Zurich-based infectious disease specialist.

A cooker wearing a protective face mask prepare a fondue, the beloved Swiss national dish of cheese melted down with white wine in a "caquelon" pot heated by an open flame at Restaurant Marzilibruecke in Bern, on November 16, 2020.

 As Switzerland contends with one of the worst coronavirus surges in Europe, the Swiss are gripped by one melting hot question: is it still safe to share a fondue? - TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY AGNES PEDRERO AND VIDEO BY ELOI ROUYER
 / AFP / STEFAN WERMUTH / TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY AGNES PEDRERO AND VIDEO BY ELOI ROUYER

"In the fondue pot, the cheese reaches a sufficient temperature to kill any virus," he added.
Gerald Bongioanni, the manager of Geneva's historic Cafe du Soleil, which normally serves up to 300 fondues a day during the winter, agrees that the food is not the problem.

"The risk is not in the fondue pot but in the gathering," he said.

Diners are wary of dipping their food into a communal pot when the World Health Organisation says coronavirus can spread through small liquid particles from a person's mouth or nose.
Among Swiss fondue lovers, various levels of realism are applied to the issue.
"Eat your fondue with a fishing rod", read one tweet, hopefully jokingly.

"Each guest takes two forks and a knife, and it's fixed: one fork to dip in the fondue, the knife to help remove the bread and the second fork to eat it," another suggested.

Meanwhile, the Swiss cheese industry issued a statement saying: "The risk of contracting Covid-19 while enjoying a fondue with other diners is negligible."

Fondue recipes date back to the 17th century and each region in Switzerland has its own favourite cheese as a twist on the basic dish.
It was only in the 1950s that is was promoted to national dish, but now restaurants are closed and the 10th annual Fondue Festival has been cancelled.

Swiss coronavirus infections rose by 4,946 in the previous 24 hours, data showed on Friday, and the total number of confirmed cases in Switzerland and neighbouring principality Liechtenstein increased to 290,601. The death toll rose by 111 to 3,575, along with 252 new hospitalisations, which added to the strain on the country's healthcare system.

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