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Skiing: Photo of crowds queuing at Swiss ski lift sparks outrage

A photograph posted on social media on Saturday has caused uproar given that it appears to show Switzerland's tight safety rules for skiers being broken.

Skiing: Photo of crowds queuing at Swiss ski lift sparks outrage
No crowds are allowed in front of ski lifts. Photo by AFP

The photo, posted on Facebook by a famed Valais chef, Didier de Courten, depicts a large, unorganised crowd swarming around the entrance to a ski lift near Verbier.

De Courten wrote that while restaurant owners in Valais had to close their establishments to curb the spread of coronavirus, “it is scandalous to destroy our efforts by inappropriate behaviour” at ski lifts.

 

In response to de Courten’s photo, Christophe Darbellay, president of Valais’ Council of State, told the media that “when the whole of Europe is watching us, it is unacceptable that Verbier was unable to organise correct queues, with barriers, markings on the ground and strict reminder of the rules”.

Laurent Vaucher, director of Verbier’s ski lift infrastructure admitted that on Saturday, the location’s capacity was exceeded “for about 30 minutes. We could no longer correct the situation at the time. The damage was done”.

Switzerland is the only country in Europe to allow skiing amid the pandemic, but authorities said resorts must rigorously apply strict protection plans and capacity limits.

“The aim is to prevent the spread of the virus in tourist areas”, Health Minister Alain Berset said on Friday.

At the end of November, the Swiss Ski Lift Association created a set of rules that must be followed in all resorts open to skiers. 

These measures include regulating queuing in such a way that it “runs in an orderly manner and without major clusters” — a rule that was broken in Verbier on Saturday.

READ MORE: 'Not another Ischgl': Switzerland unveils plans to make ski slopes safer this winter

Additionally, skiers must wear masks not only in closed spaces such as mountain trains and cable cars, but also on open-air chair lifts and T-bars, as well as in queues.

And on Friday Berset announced additional ski-related restrictions for Christmas holiday season. 

They include limiting the number of passengers in closed ski cabins to two thirds of the usual capacity.

And resorts can open to skiers only if authorised by cantons.

The federal government will grant this authorisation only if the epidemiological situation allows it, and depending on hospital capacities in a given canton, as well as the ability to undertake testing and contact tracing.

 

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TRAVEL NEWS

Switzerland to drop vaccine requirement for entry from Monday

More than two years after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, travel to Switzerland is set to return to normal from May 2nd.

Switzerland to drop vaccine requirement for entry from Monday

Despite winding back all Covid measures domestically on April 1st, Switzerland still required visitors from non-European countries to be vaccinated against Covid. 

Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Migration said on Twitter late in late April that all remaining entry rules would be scrapped from Monday, May 2nd. 

What were the rules? 

Up until May 2nd, visitors from the EU/EFTA zone can enter Switzerland without needing to show a vaccination or a test. Those from outside the bloc however need to show either proof of vaccination or recovery, or fit into other exception categories, including being under 18. 

This created a somewhat contradictory situation where Switzerland has some of the most relaxed rules in Europe domestically, but a stricter entry framework than many of its neighbours. 

‘Travelcheck’: This tool shows you what you need to enter Switzerland

As a consequence, Swiss tourism authorities warned that travellers from outside Europe, particularly those from the United States, China, India and the United Kingdom, are taking their tourist dollars elsewhere. 

The Swiss Tourism Association STV submitted a formal request in March that the laws be changed, saying they had put Switzerland at a disadvantage. 

How do I know which rules apply?

One of the most important elements to consider with regard to Covid entry rules is that the country where you reside rather than your nationality is the most important aspect. 

Therefore, if you are an American living in France under the current rules, you can enter without showing proof of vaccination, as you are considered to be entering from France. 

With rules constantly changing and official sources sometimes slow to keep up, the best way to determine the rules which apply in your specific case is the Swiss government’s ‘Travelcheck’ website. 

This is available here. 

The site will ask you certain questions about your situation, although no personal details are required. 

You will then receive a tailored response with advice on your entry situation. 

An extensive set of FAQs is available on the Swiss government website here

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