Hundreds of UK tourists flee Covid quarantine in Swiss ski resort

Hundreds of British tourists fled the upmarket Swiss ski resort of Verbier in a “cloak-and-dagger operation” this week, breaking quarantine rules retroactively put in place to contain the spread of the coronavirus variant first discovered in the UK.

Following the detection of the new mutation of Covid-19 in Britain, Swiss authorities announced on 21 December that all people who had arrived from the UK since 14 December would need to self-isolate for 10 days from their date of arrival.

The new quarantine rules also applied to hundreds of British tourists who had planned to spend the Christmas break in Verbier, an alpine village located in the municipality of Bagnes in Canton du Valais, nicknamed “Little London” by locals for the British visitors who make up 20% of tourists during a typical winter season.

Swiss authorities managed to track down 420 visitors from the UK, who were told go into quarantine.

Covid cases in Switzerland

However, according to a report in the Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung, at least half of these tourists fled the resort in “clandestine” fashion, with some later reporting back to their hotels from France.

“Many of them stayed in quarantine for a day before setting off under the cover of darkness,” said Jean-Marc Sandoz, communications officer for the Bagnes municipality.

Many hoteliers had only noticed their British guests’ departure after they failed to answer calls to their rooms or left meals deposited outside their rooms untouched.

Since flights between Switzerland and the UK had been cancelled since Sunday 20 December, it was initially unclear where the tourists had disappeared to, Sandoz said. Some tourists later contacted their hotels to find out whether they still had to pay for the nights they had initially booked.

In light of reports that the UK-discovered variant was 70% more transmissible, SonntagsZeitung reported “xenophobic resentments” against British tourists in the upmarket resort. “Anyone who speaks English is suspicious,” it said.

“Many people are unfairly denounced and accused of breaking the quarantine instructions – only because of their language,” said Sandoz.

Swiss media quoted an elderly woman from London, who had self-isolated in her second home in Verbier, as saying: “For days I was put under general suspicion. It was unbearable.”


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