ZURICH (Reuters) – Hundreds of Britons have fled quarantine in the Swiss ski resort of Verbier, with the country’s health minister attributing the exodus to an “impossible situation” where authorities moved at short-notice to contain a new variant of the coronavirus.
On Dec 21, the Swiss government ordered people who had arrived from the United Kingdom and South Africa since Dec. 14 to undergo a 10-day quarantine to prevent the spread of more contagious variants of the coronavirus. It also halted flights before allowing them to resume a few days later so stranded visitors could return home.
Swiss media reported on Sunday that about 200 British citizens left Verbier before the end of their quarantine.
Asked about the run-away tourists, Health Minister Alain Berset told reporters in Basel: “We are aware of that. It is obviously a problem, there was an order to quarantine that has not been respected.”
He said he didn’t know the current whereabouts of the tourists, 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.”
Simon Wiget, director of Verbier tourism, told Reuters that the sudden quarantine order had placed local authorities in a difficult situation. “It’s our role to pass on information, we’re not the police,” he said.
(Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)