More than 400 British tourists from the exclusive Swiss ski resort of Verbier have escaped the village after being ordered to quarantine it.
Swiss authorities have ordered visitors to self-isolate for 10 days in their accommodation after the UK announced it had detected a new, highly transmissible mutation in the coronavirus.
News of the discovery of the mutation, which swept across the UK causing increased rates of COVID-19 infection, has led many countries, including Switzerland, to close their borders to British visitors.
From midnight on December 20, Switzerland banned flights from the UK, but also implemented a retroactive quarantine.
This meant that around 420 Britons who had already arrived in the village of Verbier, one of Europe’s premier ski resorts, were told they should immediately return to their homes and avoid contact with the outside world.
The well-heeled visitors had other ideas. On Sunday morning, hoteliers informed managers that breakfast trays were left untouched outside guest rooms and calls to rooms went unanswered, the The telegraph of the day reports.
The newspaper claims that of the 420 Britons identified by authorities as being at the luxury resort, popular with the British Royal Family, when the quarantine was hastily enforced, less than a dozen remained on Sunday. The laws implemented would mean that quarantine could result in a fine of up to 10,000 Swiss francs ($ 11,220).
Some guests were able to leave legally using a measure announced by Swiss authorities on Christmas Eve, which allowed Britons in quarantine to return home if they informed regional authorities of their mode of transport.
Some of the British tourists affected in Verbier left immediately, while others stayed for a short time before giving up and fleeing, according to a local newspaper.
“Many of them remained in quarantine for a day before leaving undetected under cover of darkness,” said Jean-Marc Sandoz, a spokesperson for the municipality at large. SonntagsZeitung.
He called the situation “the worst week our community has ever seen”.
Sandoz told ATS News Agency: “It was when they saw that the meal trays remained intact that the hoteliers noticed that the customers were gone.”
He said he believed fewer than 10 people would still be in quarantine and the rest would either be gone or their isolation would have ended, adding: “We cannot blame them. In most cases the quarantine was untenable. Imagine four people staying in a 20 square meter hotel room. “
Christophe Darbellay, president of the local government, said: “There is a sense of personal responsibility. You can travel throughout Europe without having to identify yourself. The border is a sieve.
He criticized the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (OFSP), saying the passenger information was provided too late. He said: “Passenger data was missing. Our job has been made unnecessarily difficult.
The FOPH denied this and said it had requested airline data for the 92 UK flights that had arrived since December 14 and released the township data on Wednesday.
However Simon Wiget, the director of the Verbier Tourist Office, told the The telegraph of the day that the rules were confusing.
“We called all the hotels and tour operators and told them that people who had traveled from the UK had to register with the Swiss authorities. We identified around 350 people, but maybe there were 500 if all owners of second homes and guests in private cabins were included; it was impossible to be sure.
“Maybe a few people might have thought they were escaping, but I think the vast majority would have believed they were acting within the law and responsibly. People are basically honest and they don’t break the law on purpose. It is all very confusing, even for us. The new rules were drawn up in a hurry and the situation is changing so rapidly that tourists have done what they can.
Switzerland has been heavily criticized for keeping ski resorts open during the pandemic, with critics attributing skyrocketing infection rates to the move.
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