Campagne d'information merci cover

Dossier d'information COVID-19: Mesures prises par la Ville de Genève

THANK YOU information campaign

Through the photographic portraits and testimonies presented here – which are also displayed around the streets of Geneva – the City wants to shed light on the work of all the people providing services essential to the functioning of the community, both in normal circumstances and in times of crisis. These photos and stories also reveal how, in a wave of solidarity, about one hundred employees joined new teams at short notice to lend a helping hand.

Associated article

In light of the coronavirus pandemic and the measures announced by the Federal Government, the City of Geneva quickly implemented reorganisation measures in order to ensure the continued provision of its priority services and introduce specific measures intended for at-risk groups and people placed in a vulnerable situation as a result of the crisis. The administration has been able to rely on the valuable commitment and flexibility of all its staff who have continued fulfilling their duties either in the field or from home against an unprecedented and challenging backdrop.

THANK YOU to everyone who agreed to have their photo taken and who shared a little of their daily life during this period of crisis. A big THANK YOU also goes to all those who do not appear in these images, but whose commitment and work are just as essential!

Throughout the month of May, discover 5 new portraits every Wednesday!

Xavier – Administrative Information Officer, Social Service

Portrait Xavier

“We were forced to close the Plainpalais information centre where I work at an early stage. The entire team was reorganised to manage the hotline, which is now open 7 days a week. Usually, people can drop into the centre and ask question face to face, enabling us to create a dialogue and a relationship of trust. On the telephone, this is much more difficult, all the more so as we receive numerous calls from distressed people living in hardship and highly precarious situations, people who have no money, no food and who need immediate assistance. We do our best to find solutions, to listen to these people and direct them towards existing mechanisms. It is the serious, urgent nature of these issues that is really striking compared to our normal work. Initially, we focused on identifying all the different mechanisms implemented by the institutions, associations, support groups on the social networks, etc. We created memos which we constantly updated so that we had as many answers as possible at our fingertips. The Geneva scouts organisation, for example, alongside numerous other actors, has done some outstanding work and been extremely reactive in helping people unable to leave their homes. This crisis has also reminded us that it is essential to care for the people who live near us, be it in the same building or the same street. We all need each other.”

Learn more about the Social Service (SOC)

Nicolas – Paramedic, Fire and Rescue Service

Portrait Nicolas

“In normal circumstances, we perform health interventions around the canton on behalf of the 144. During this period of crisis, the number of accidents has fallen as people are out and about less often. At the moment, we mostly respond to requests for specific interventions linked to the COVID-19 outbreak, transporting symptomatic people who may or may not be infected. The main difference in our daily work is the protective equipment we wear. To avoid infection we have masks – either surgical masks or the famous FFP2 masks – and Tyvek suits, those white suits we seen on TV, together with plastic gowns. It is a massive challenge to assess the level of protection required for an intervention. Naturally, we don’t want to use this equipment unnecessarily as it is becoming increasingly difficult to find. Fortunately, we are lucky enough to work in a very close-knit team. It is difficult not to shake a colleague’s hand when you arrive at work in the morning and to eat alone at your table. But despite everything, the friendly atmosphere at the station has remained intact!”

Learn more about the paramedics of the Fire and Rescue Service

Gregory – Carpenter, Fire and Rescue Service

Portrait Gregory

“I usually work as a theatre scenery builder in the scenery workshops in le Lignon, but I have been temporarily reassigned to the Fire and Rescue Service to help ensure that everything runs smoothly in the main station and to meet any specific needs that might arise during the current crisis. For example, I have been tasked with building bariatric stretchers, which are stretchers designed for people who are overweight. I have continued working from my workshop in le Lignon, as all my tools are here and I am used to the set-up. Once the equipment is finished, I deliver it to the fire station. I have also been responsible for lock maintenance. Each room in the fire station is connected to a hopper, the famous fireman’s pole that all kids love! Some access doors were jammed and it is essential for the firefighters to be able to leave their rooms as quickly as possible. Putting the pandemic to one side, it’s fascinating to discover life behind the scenes in a fire station. But I’m also looking forward to things returning to normal and building stage scenery instead of stretchers.”

Learn more about the Fire and Rescue Service(SIS)


Delphine – Early Childhood Educator, Champel-Bertrand sector

portrait Delphine

"Usually, the children at the nursery are divided into age groups. With the crisis, we have had to put children of different ages, between 1 and 4, in the same group. As educators, we have reorganised the activities so that they are suitable for both the youngest and the oldest children. While the organisation has changed, our work is more or less the same as before. During this period, some children have had to attend a different nursery from the one they are used to and become accustomed to a place they are unfamiliar with, meeting adults for the very first time. We have made every effort to accompany them and reassure them as much as possible. Generally speaking, I think the children have the same anxieties as the adults with regard to the virus. We deal with very alert children who naturally talk to us and even tell us how to watch our hands correctly! Fortunately, they don’t seem to be too anxious about the situation.”

Learn more about the Early Childhood Service (SDPE)

Patrick – Technical Manager, crematorium

Portrait Patrick

“Working at the crematorium, the COVID-19 outbreak placed us all under a great deal of pressure as it did the nursing staff, paramedics, fire brigade and so many other professions. As the peak number of deaths was recorded, our work rate naturally increased and additional cremations were conducted at weekends. Under normal circumstances, there are about ten cremations per day. During the crisis, this figure has increased to 16 or 17 cremations per day. And in this strained context, we have to remain attentive to the families’ wishes and do everything we can to accompany them. We must still return the ashes to the families within 48 hours of a cremation, with the urns sometimes to be sent abroad. We are lucky to have such a close-knit team and to enjoy such good support if we need to talk about our day-to-day work and the difficulties we encounter. During the crisis, we were able to count on the valuable support of colleagues who came in voluntarily to lend a hand!”

Learn more about the Undertakers Service (SPF)



Vincent – Undertaker, Undertakers Service

Portrait Vincent

“With the epidemic, the workload has doubled. We weren’t expecting to experience a situation like this. In 17 years working as a undertaker, I have never seen anything like it. We have had to adapt our organisation and take all the necessary measures to avoid contamination while continuing to give all our care and attention to the deceased and their families, showing even more empathy than usual in such a difficult period of mourning. In these extraordinary circumstances, we had to put the deceased in the covers as quickly as possible and close the coffins. Usually, we take great care in dressing the deceased, brushing their hair and preparing them – it is a very important part of our work that we enjoy doing. For the families, I am the last person to have seen their loved one. It is therefore essential that I answer their questions and reassure them. Many families need reassurance that the person seemed calm and at peace when I came to collect them. They need to know that we took good care of them.”

Learn more about the Undertakers Service (SPF)



Johnny – Maintenance Officer, Trembley School

Portrait Johnny

“Working in a school, complying with hygiene and preventive measures is already an integral part of our daily life. But with the new coronavirus, we have had to strengthen the measures, for example by providing all staff working in the school with hydro-alcoholic solutions as well as identifying and disinfecting numerous contact points. We have also implemented and maintained all the personal and collective protective equipment, whether this includes information posters and signage or soap dispensers, etc. We have adapted our work according to the changing situation and the health measures in place. During the crisis, for example, we now leave our work clothes on site. We bring nothing home with us and bring nothing with us to where we work. We also have a rota system to replace colleagues who are sick or at risk. We are a very close-knit team!”

Learn more about the Schools Service (ECO)

Stéphane – Municipal Police Officer, les Eaux-Vives police station

Portrait Stéphane

“The semi-confinement situation created palpable tension, with more complaints concerning noise pollution for example. People were at home all day working, doing sport and looking after their children. Naturally that created new noises in the neighbourhood that people have to deal with. We try to encourage people to show a little patience. Even just a little mediation can often resolve conflicts. We try to provide the population with as much information as possible. Sometimes, there are questions that are impossible to answer, such as “When will the situation end?” But more often than not, we receive specific requests and are able to provide guidance. Generally speaking, I think that our presence reassures the population and during this period, we have encountered numerous people who have thanked us and congratulated us on our work. It is both rewarding and energising!”

Learn more about the Municipal Police Service (SPM)

Imen – Volunteer, Geneva Red Cross

Portrait Imen

“As a first-year student at the University of Geneva, I took advantage of the flexible timetable resulting from the online lessons to register as a volunteer with the Geneva Red Cross. I help old people or those at risk who are confined by doing their shopping, taking their bins out, walking their dogs and, most importantly, talking to them by phone on a regular basis! I am from Tunisia and came to Geneva to study economics and management. I live in a hall of residence, a long way from my family. Despite the current crisis, my parents are continuing to work, one at the airport while the other is a doctor. They instilled in me the desire to make myself useful by helping however I can. I’m young, in good health and I have time on my hands so why not help make life easier for those who need it?”

Learn more about the Geneva Red Cross

Séverine – Maintenance Officer, les Allobroges school

Portrait Séverine

“During the period of semi-confinement, we continued to welcome pupils who were spread around several classrooms with strict hygiene measures. We took a maximum of twenty pupils. In principle, I work at les Allobroges school but during confinement, I replaced my colleagues at the Cayla school. With children returning to school on 11 May, we will be required to disinfect all contact points – including door handles and light switches – several times a day. This work comes on top of our usual duties of cleaning the yard, the classrooms, the sports halls and the toilets. But we are happy that the children are returning to the classrooms. We were beginning to feel lonely in this big school!”

Learn more about the Schools Service (ECO)

Suzanne – Municipal Police “Appointée”, les Acacias police station

Portrait de Suzanne

“We spend a good part of our days informing the population about preventive measures and checking that everyone respects the rules. Our work is less varied than usual and we miss the daily contact with the people in the district, the restaurant and shop owners. Under normal circumstances, we work alongside them to identify problems and attempt to resolve them. At the moment, we need to listen and talk to people in order to defuse the tensions which tend to emerge between different groups who do not have the same experience of the situation. Some people are strictly confined while others enjoy a certain freedom of movement. It is essential that each person tries to put themselves in the other person’s shoes. We try to encourage people to show a little empathy. At the same time, we can observe an amazing spirit of solidarity within the districts – it is genuinely heart-warning and I hope it will continue!”

Learn more about the Municipal Police Service (SPM)



Sven – Early Childhood Educator, Bertrand sector

portrait de Sven

“With the crisis, we have brought together children aged 0 to 4 and educators from several nurseries to provide a minimum service. The children have had to get used to new supervisors and in certain cases, a new living environment. We know that children are like sponges, easily absorbing the emotions of adults. But they also have an amazing ability to adapt. The older children understand what is going on. You can tell that their parents have talked to them about the virus and the hygiene measures to be taken, without for all that frightening them. Some children even gave us a lesson on how to wash our hands properly! The main thing in this unusual situation is to be able to welcome them in the best possible conditions. And with the Parc Bertrand as a playground, it’s relatively pleasant for them!

Learn more about the Early Childhood Service (SDPE)



Sabina – Registrar and Head of Section

Campagne Merci - Sabina

“To comply with health measures, only one third of our staff are present in the civil registry building at any one time. Meanwhile, we continue to maintain essential and urgent services, such as the registration of births and deaths and the official recognition of a child. A typical day would usually see an average of 20 to 25 members of staff working in the registry office; currently, we’re down to six. It means that colleagues are having to shoehorn two days’ worth of work into one! That said, we’re able to rely on the incredible support of our teleworking colleagues. It’s not that easy to reorganise your life around working from home, familiarising yourself with computer tools and spending the day behind a screen, while at the same time fulfilling your family obligations. Some people found it hard at first, but everything sorted itself out after a few days. The team’s wonderfully flexible and resilient, and for lots of them, coming or returning to work is a real breath of fresh air!”

Learn more about the Civil Registry Office (CIV)




Sandra – Early Childhood Director, Champel Sector

Campagne Merci - Sandra

“This crisis finds me trying to focus on the positives without minimising the suffering and distress that affects many people, including the families we’re working with. I hope that the incredible outpouring of solidarity and goodwill within our teams and the population at large means we can continue working together against this virus and its impact. When the crisis started, we were working in the dark and with a sense of urgency: everything had to be rethought – without really knowing how – in order to adapt to the health measures. But the commitment and flexibility of the teams meant we were able to regain the upper hand and adapt quickly. In this context, it’s really important to reassure the teams, keep them informed, issue clear instructions and make those colleagues who are out in the field and working from home feel part of the action. At the same, we’ll need to make sure we don’t judge those who didn’t want to come to work for fear of contracting the virus. Everyone will have done the best that he or she could!”

Learn more about the Early Childhood Service (SDPE)



Rocco – Street Sweeper, Jonction Sector

Campagne Merci - Rocco

“These days, we start at four in the morning and clean the streets in pairs, instead of the usual four people. I’ve been working in the roads department for 15 years. I like being out and about: just as well, as sometimes we walk up to 20 kilometres a day! I hate staying at home doing nothing all day. I can’t wait to get back to normal working hours, i.e. working every week instead of only one in two, and being with the whole team. Even though I'm healthy and the virus doesn’t scare me, I wear gloves when I’m working, and of course I keep my distance from people I meet on the street: it’s important!”

Learn more about the Street Cleansing Service

Daniel – Electrician, Vehicle Management Unit

Campagne Merci - Daniel

“Our ten-strong team has been split into two groups to limit contact and ensure social distancing when working on the city’s lorries, cars and sweepers. There’s often 10-15 metres between us. I’m the only electrician on the team; the others are mechanics. At first, the virus was something fairly abstract for me; I didn’t take the threat very seriously. Then you find out that someone you know has had it – a friend, a neighbour. You hear of acquaintances who’ve died. That’s when you realise the virus is getting closer and you really have to be careful, keep your distance and wash your hands well. It’s weird not shaking hands with your workmates every morning, but that’s the way it is!”

Learn more about the Logistics and Events Service (LOM)

Yann – Market Supervisor, Plaine de Plainpalais

Campagne Merci - Yann

“Working in the markets, you’re in contact with lots of people: the stallholders you help setting up the stands, the customers you inform, the colleagues you work with. That means it’s vital that everyone stick to the health and safety rules. We’ve installed five handwashing stations at the Plaine de Plainpalais, and we ensure that the measures in force are observed through use of safety barriers and so forth. We’re here to set an example and make everything run as smoothly as possible! I was keen to be out in the field again, support the stallholders, get some fresh air and clear my head a bit. This crisis makes you feel rather like you’re taking part in a film.”

Learn more about the Public Areas Service (SEP)

Wilson, pendant son travail

Wilson - store-keeping assistance, François-Dussaud site

“As a logistics officer with the municipal police, I have been reassigned to the Logistics and Events Service warehouse and tasked with filling hundreds of bottles of hydro-alcoholic solution every day. During this period, we try to lend a hand wherever we can and often learn on the job.” 

Learn more about the Logistics and Events Service (LOM)

Martina, devant son ordinateur à son travail.

Martina - social emergency hotline manager

“This crisis has made existing difficult personal situations worse and created new ones. We are witnessing genuine distress and try our best to find solutions. Some people are really desperate and call us on the social emergency solidarity hotline as a last resort, hoping that we can find an immediate solution. While we can’t just wave a magic wand, our team gives its all to inform these people of measures that may be useful to them and to guide them towards the facilities that exist. It is important for me to visit my team in the field in order to keep my finger on the pulse and support the staff. I keep them informed as to how the situation is evolving and offer reassurance where necessary.” 

Learn more about the social service (SOC)

Emmanuel - qualified paramedic, Fire and Rescue Service

Portrait d'Emmanuel

“The suits, masks and protective goggles we wear when dealing with patients can cause a certain amount of anxiety. This makes it more difficult to create a link and reassure the people we treat, regardless of whether they are suffering from COVID-19 or are everyday patients. And as most nursing staff also wear protective equipment, we are sometimes unable to distinguish our colleagues from the rest of the group. That happened to me during an operation with the French army: with everyone wearing masks and the same uniforms, it was impossible to find my colleague! Today, the workload has almost doubled and it is much more tiring. The days are more difficult too, so it takes a little longer to recover.” 

Learn more about the paramedics of the Fire and Rescue Service

Portrait de Nelma

Nelma - market controller, Plaine de Plainpalais

“Usually, markets are places where people meet and share. Against the current backdrop, we make sure that the stands and users comply with the distancing measures. Generally speaking, the measures are applied correctly and respected. You can feel that people are afraid of catching the virus. My colleagues and I wear gloves and masks. That enables us to answer questions in total peace of mind and even to chat briefly with people who might want, or need, to talk! We also install barriers, which help us to manage the customer flows around the stands, as well as checking that the water fountains are working correctly and that enough soap is available.” 

Learn more about the Public Areas Service (SEP)

Jose Manuel - street cleaning driver, refuse collection

Portrait de José Manuel au volant de son camion

“I have worked for the Street Cleaning Service as a lorry driver for 30 years now. With the current crisis, the main change for us is that the roads are far less busy. It’s strange to see the city like that. But more particularly, it is far less chaotic and dangerous! Usually, we have to make our way between bikes, pedestrians, cars, mopeds, buses, etc. At the moment, that kind of pressure is off. Of course, some people still get irritated, blow their horn and complain. But generally speaking, people are grateful and some even thank us as we go by. It is very rewarding!”

Learn more about the Street Cleaning – Clean City Service

Campagne MERCI: Barbara, caserne des Vernets

Barbara - support at the exclusion unit, Caserne des Vernets

"The current crisis linked to the COVID-19 virus has shown the numerous inequalities and injustices present in our society in sharp relief. For some people that I meet at the emergency shelter and accommodation centre at the Caserne des Vernets, the fear of the virus is nothing compared to the anxiety caused by living in a precarious situation. One of the beneficiaries of this service jokingly said to me: ‘Honestly, I’ve seen so many things in my life. The virus is nothing to me! I could crush it with my foot!’. The world of exclusion is new to me and I have discovered it by means of total immersion. I have even met some of my colleagues for the first time. At the shelter, we try our best to meet the immediate needs of the beneficiaries, 24 hours a day. At the Plainpalais Jonction/Acacias local social outreach centre, I’m used to organising long-term projects and creating strong links with the local stakeholders. I hope that the numerous civic and joint initiatives will continue to flourish and grow in number after the crisis is over!”
Learn more about the emergency service provided at the Caserne des Vernets

Learn more about the emergency service provided at the Caserne des Vernets

Campagne MERCI: David, caserne des Vernets

David - education assistant, Caserne des Vernets

“Providing homeless people with a roof over their heads and enabling them to live in dignity is what matters to me. Providing them with meals, clean bedding, clothes and the basics for getting washed. As an educator at les Vollandes Civil Defence shelter, I am used to carrying out these tasks. I joined the emergency shelter and accommodation service at the Caserne des Vernets in order to help it function correctly by welcoming people, meeting their needs, coordinating the teams, etc. We arrived almost at the same time as those in need of our help – it was a massive challenge! And compared to a Civil Defence shelter, the Caserne des Vernets is huge, with three floors, its long corridors and so many people working there. The coordination task is quite considerable. I am nevertheless genuinely satisfied that we succeeded in setting everything up in such a short space of time.”

Learn more about the emergency service provided at the Caserne des Vernets

Campagne MERCI: François, SIS

François - assistance to the fire brigade, Fire and Rescue Service

“An employee at the Museum of Art and History, I provide logistical assistance to the Fire and Rescue Service, which involves preparing and transporting the necessary equipment to the different fire stations. This includes empty respiratory equipment which must be refilled, for example, or work clothes that need to be washed. Compared to my usual job at the MAH reception, I naturally have less contact with the public and the work is more manual and much more physical. But it is good to do some exercise and I’m pleased to be part of a useful service and to work in such a welcoming and close-knit team. The only thing that I find challenging? Reversing the truck! I need more practice.”
Learn more about the Fire and Rescue Service

Learn more about the Fire and Rescue Service 

Campagne MERCI: Pascal, LOM

Pascal - warehouseman, François-Dussaud site

“I am pleased to be able to continue working, even if my tasks as a warehouseman in the Logistics and Events Service have changed considerably in the current context. I provide my colleagues with everything they need to continue performing their activities including disinfectants, cleaning products and work clothes that need washing, ironing and folding. This crisis situation arose almost overnight. So naturally, there is a great deal of pressure. You have to think of everything, coordinate as much as possible, take care of the members of your team and meet the demands of the City’s employees. The days are very trying. Once you get home, your legs feel heavy and your arms just fall by your sides. But as I said, I enjoy working and making myself useful. Spending a whole day at home isn’t for me!”
Learn more about the Logistics and Events Service (LOM)

Learn more about the Logistics and Events Service (LOM) 

Campagne MERCI: Vanessa, collecte des déchets

Vanessa - member of the Parks and Street Cleaning Service

“Normally in spring, the parks in the Acacias-Vernets district that I deal with are full of life and you chat to numerous people. Obviously, it’s much quieter at the moment, and it’s good to see that the large groups that meet in the parks are becoming increasingly scarce. The trees are in flower, the birds are singing, the colours are stunning and I continue to make sure that the parks are clean and looking their best! Since the beginning of the crisis, we have stopped working in pairs. Instead we alternate. I head off on my own in my little van. A little anecdote: when I am going to work around 5.30 a.m., I meet a fox. There’s no confinement for nature!" 

Learn more about the Street Cleaning Service (Service Voirie - ville propre)

Discover other pictures taken from the reports to document the COVID-19 crisis


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Article modifié le 29.05.2020 à 09:50