Switzerland has pledged to keep its ski slopes open through the entire winter, much to the chagrin of its larger neighbours Germany, France and Italy.
On Wednesday, Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset presented a plan to cut infection risks on the slopes this winter.
A number of countries have indicated they will stop their citizens from travelling to Switzerland to ski or put in place serious quarantine restrictions in order to prevent outbreaks back home when skiers return.
Adopting the motto “avoiding a second Ischgl”, Berset laid out a range of ways in which skiing can be made safer, NZZ reports.
Swiss authorities are hoping the plans will thaw the continental resistance to their decision to keep the slopes open – and hopefully result in a flood of tourists.
As reported by the NZZ “the unmistakable message from the northern and southern neighbouring countries is that those who already have a comparatively high number of infections should not create potential hotspots in the winter sports resorts”.
What measures will be adopted?
In the draft report presented to the cantons for discussion on Wednesday, a number of measures aimed at reducing the total number of skiers were included.
Two options are provided.
The first is a restriction of guest numbers to two-thirds of those who were in attendance at the same ski resort on the best-visited day of the previous year.
Alternately, the number of guests could be capped at 80 percent of the average attendance over Christmas across the past five years.
Are there any other measures?
In addition, cable cars may only be used to two thirds of capacity.
Distance rules should apply when queuing for ski lifts, Watson reports, while masks must also be worn at all times except for when skiing.
All ski areas need to apply for a permit from the cantonal authorities which references the steps being taken to avoid transmission of the virus.
Cantons will also need to provide evidence that there are sufficient beds in their local hospitals and medical centres to deal with a surge in infections.
Catering will also be restricted, with skiers only allowed to enter restaurants if a table is available – while all restaurants and ski huts must close at 3pm.
While Berset hopes that the measures will encourage Switzerland’s neighbours to release their residents to the slopes, Swiss media reports that the measures are likely to be too relaxed to bring about widespread support.