Reaction as 100s of UK Skiers Reported to Have Fled Quarantine in Verbier
28th December 2020
Last modified on December 29th, 2020
420 people were contacted by the authorities and told to isolate in their location but only ten are left. Most people’s quarantine has now expired and the reported exodus took place over a week ago. The restrictions were put in place after the UK reported the new variant of the virus. UPDATED
It is understood around 50 people left immediately.
Some stayed in their accommodation when they were initially contacted and then left their hotels under cover of darkness.
A handfull contacted their hotel to try to get their money back or request if payment was needed after they had arrived in neighbouring France on their way back to the UK, according to Swiss media.
Some hoteliers only noticed their British guests had left during the night after they did not answer calls to their rooms or left meals placed outside their rooms untouched.
Swiss media report that others went to stay with friends who owned chalets or apartments.
Many others observed the regulations according to people we have heard from in the resort.
Those that fled faced a fine of 10,000 Swiss francs (£8,300) for breaking quarantine regulations.
The Swiss authorities introduced a 10-day quarantine period on December 21st after the mutated virus was detected in the UK, Quarantine chaos for British skiers in Switzerland.
They were ordered to self-isolate for 10-days from their date of arrival.
All flights were suspended but they have now been reintroduced for nationals to return home, UK residents in quarantine in Switzerland allowed to leave.
A return flight to the UK is only available for those who had completed 10-days of quarantine.
There were 92 flights from the UK to Geneva from December 14th – 20th with an estimated 10,000 people on board.
Most were Swiss nationals returning home for Xmas, but many would have been skiers.
So far three cases of the new virus have been found in Switzerland.
Two of them are British nationals.
They are in the German-speaking part of the country.
Verbier is in the French-speaking part.
The actions of the authorities, and some of those who broke quarantine, has had a mixed reaction.
Some say it would have been better to test people and have described the quarantine as “inhumane”.
Verbier has a number of testing centres in the resort.
The spokesman for Bagnes, an area of the Valais canton containing Verbier, voiced sympathy for the UK skiers suddenly thrust into quarantine.
“We understand their anger,” Jean-Marc Sandoz told the SonntagsZeitung newspaper.
“Suddenly families with small children were locked into 20 square meters and that’s intolerable.”
The new strain of the virus is 70% more transmissible and people in the resort who speak English are being criticised by some locals.
Many live there year-round and are not part of the Xmas influx.
“Someone told me to “Go Home” the other day. This is reminiscent of ignorant racism throughout history, and frightening that it should occur in 2020,” said one Verbier regular on social media.
Unlike many other ski countries in Europe the Swiss have allowed their resorts to open with no overall international quarantine regulations in place.
Verbier is hugely popular with the British and many apartments and chalets in the resort are owned by the British.
20% of the visitors to Verbier are British.
For others keen to ski or snowboard over Xmas Switzerland was the only option.
However some comments on social media point to the fact that travelling anywhere in a pandemic is risky and people should accept the consequences of their actions.
Other criticise Switzerland for even allowing its resorts to open.
Austria has opened its ski resorts but has quarantine measures in place at the border.
All resort facilities such as hotels and accommodation are closed so the resorts are for locals only.
After an initial PR disaster when images of long lift queues at the base station in Le Chable went viral Verbier has handled the restrictions in resort well.
“It has become noticeable busier his week, but they are managing to do a great job to keep social distancing in the lift queues,” said one PlanetSKI reader currently in Verbier.
“Very chilled atmosphere on the mountain and in town especially now restaurants and bars are shut.
“The skiing is great as it has snowed a fair bit in the last few days.”
The person, who prefers to remain anonymous, said “I know of two Brits that escaped in the dead of night”.
Only 10 people out of the 420 are now required to be in isolation as their 10-days has passed.
“It’s obviously a problem. There was an order to quarantine that has not been respected,” said the Swiss health minister, Alain Berset.
He said he didn’t know the current location of the tourists that fled but suspected that they had gone home.
“One shouldn’t underestimate what an impossible situation it was,” he said.
“We had to decide within hours what to do … That things don’t work perfectly in such a situation, that problems surface is a reality we have to live with.”
The development also caused many Swiss nationals to cancel their holiday to Verbier as they feared it would become a Covid-19 hotspot with the arrival of the British.
It is normally one of the busiest weeks of the season – hotels in the Verbier report 30% occupancy levels.
The resort has strict and enforced Covid-19 protocols out on the slopes.
The new coronavirus quarantine experience had made it “the worst week our community has ever experienced” according to Jean-Marc Sandoz, the spokesman for Bagnes, an area of the Valais canton containing Verbier.
Similar departures took place in other ski resorts in Switzerland.
There has swift and pretty unanimous reaction over on the PlanetSKI Facebook page. Feel free to add your views.
Sar Ah: Let’s hope they are tracked down and heavily fined and punished. And some wonder why the brits get a crappy reputation in many resorts
Andrea H. Stanley: This is why all resorts won’t open this year. The majority suffer due to the selfish actions of the minority. I’m desperate to ski. I’m desperate to see the mountains. Instead I’m pretending I’m pregnant and according to my calories over the last few months I’m starting to resemble it too!
Peter Lewis: Can’t believe the selfishness of some people – travel from one country with a new, highly-infectious strain of the virus to another country, then break quarantine that new, host country – perhaps spreading virus as they go. Have they agreed to compensate the accommodation providers who will have lost bookings?
Scott Green: Snowboarders wouldn’t of done that , bloody skiers