Hundreds of UK tourists left Switzerland ‘under cover of darkness’ when told to quarantine

Monday, 28th December 2020, 3:00 pm
Updated Monday, 28th December 2020, 3:00 pm

Hundreds of UK tourists left a Swiss ski resort “under the cover of darkness,” despite being told to self-isolate for 10 days.

Approximately 200 visitors fled the town of Verbier in Switzerland after the Swiss government ordered anyone arriving from the UK after 14 December to quarantine for 10 days.

While some tourists are thought to have left immediately upon receiving the order to quarantine, most obeyed the order for a short time, before deciding to leave.

Swiss authorities identified 420 tourists from the UK who were then ordered to quarantine on 20 December.

‘The worst week’

Verbier is an Alpine village ski resort in the Swiss Valais Canton, which is particularly popular with travellers from the UK. They make up approximately one fifth of the tourists who come during the winter season.

Fewer than a dozen of the identified tourists were left in the resort by 20 December, and some have resurfaced across the border in France, according to Swiss officials.

Speaking to Swiss newspaper, SonntagsZeitung, communications officer for the Bagnes region, Jean-Marc Sandoz, said the ordeal has been “the worst week our community has ever experienced.”

He continued, “Many of [the tourists] stayed in quarantine for a day before setting off under the cover of darkness.

"It was when [hotel staff] saw the meal trays remained untouched that the hoteliers noticed that the customers had gone.

"We can't blame them. In most cases, quarantine was untenable. Imagine four people staying in a hotel room of 20 square metres.”

What are the travel rules to Switzerland?

After reports had emerged about the new Covid strain in the UK, the Swiss government imposed a travel ban on 20 December, stopping all flights between the two countries.

The policy was changed a few days later, on 23 December, to allow people to travel between the UK and Switzerland on Christmas Eve, in order to allow them to get home for Christmas.

Coronavirus restrictions on going on holiday differ across the UK, though international travel is not advised anywhere, if it can be avoided.

People living in Tier 4 areas of England cannot travel internationally, unless it is for one of a few exceptions, including work.

You can find the latest government guidelines on international travel generally, here, and the guidelines for Switzerland in particular, here.