By Cecile Mantovani

GENEVA (Reuters) – The coronavirus epidemic has forced a Swiss couple to rethink their plans for the birth of their first child.

Arnaud Joal and Noemie Bouchet, in their 30s and both gynaecologists at Geneva’s university hospital, were infected a month ago by COVID-19.

They had to accept quickly that childbirth would now be nothing like what they expected.

Border closures will bar their families who live in France from visiting, while Switzerland’s own restrictions including on gatherings in public will keep them from heading outside to show off their swaddled offspring.

And though Arnaud will be allowed into the delivery room, post-childbirth he will be barred from the maternity clinic. The hospital, meanwhile, is patrolled by security guards, keeping those who do not belong outside.

“I pictured myself at the maternity ward with Arnaud coming all the time, with family visiting,” Noemie, nine months pregnant, told Reuters. Now, “I see myself alone instead.”

She’s expecting the baby by next week or so.

They were infected with COVID-19 a month or so ago, but developed only mild symptoms, with a quick recovery. Noemie was worried for herself and her child but she is hoping it will confer immunity so she will not catch it again.

She could spend up to 48 hours in the maternity ward before heading home. Arnaud dreads the hours he’ll spend at home alone, waiting.

“It is going to be a little bit frustrating … to not go to the maternity ward, to not see Noemie, to not see him or her,” he said. 

The Swiss death toll from coronavirus reached 705 and confirmed cases rose to 22,789 on Wednesday, with the government extending restrictions for another week to April 26 before a gradual loosening to start by month’s end.

With the optimism of a young mother-to-be, Noemie keeps telling herself: “It’s going to be OK.”

“I think all the preparations we’ve done, with a midwife coming, are very good,” she said. “But yes, I never planned for something quite like this.”

(Writing by John Miller; Editing by Giles Elgood)