Switzerland: Ski World Cup’s Wengen Classic called off due to Covid

The skiing World Cup's prestigious event at Wengen, scheduled for this weekend, has been called off due to increasing Covid-19 cases locally, the Swiss regional authorities said Monday.

Switzerland: Ski World Cup's Wengen Classic called off due to Covid
A file photo of skiing at the Wengen Classic. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

The much-awaited Wengen weekend, a highlight on the men's World Cup calendar, usually unfolds in a carnival atmosphere surrounding its feared Lauberhorn downhill races.

In normal times, it is one of the world's best-attended winter sports events, attracting around 30,000 spectators.

However, Switzerland's Bern canton announced it had decided to reverse a previous decision and pull the licence due to surging Covid-19 infections in the local area.

Switzerland has seen coronavirus infection and death rates stagnate at a stubbornly high level, with the federal government set this week to announce that restrictions imposed due to the pandemic will be extended until the end of February.

“The situation in Wengen with the increasing number of coronavirus infections has prompted the Bern canton to overturn the decision announced yesterday to hold the Lauberhorn race,” the regional authority said in a statement.

READ MORE: What new coronavirus rules could Switzerland announce this week? 

“The canton is concerned about the dynamics in which the virus is spreading,” it added, pointing the finger at the new, more contagious mutation raging in Britain.

“The health and business administration have decided to withdraw the permit for the Lauberhorn races.

“It will not be possible to take all precautions so that the athletes and the support teams can be adequately protected in separate zones.”

The canton explained that in the village of Wengen, the virus had spread very quickly from almost no cases in mid-December to more than 60 since then.

“The people of Wengen are asked to stay at home whenever possible and to avoid contacts outside their own household,” the canton said.

The Lauberhorn downhill is the longest race on the World Cup circuit. Staged in the shadow of the Eiger and Jungfrau mountains, the races there have been traditionally held in January since 1930.

The race organising committee said in a statement that it “deeply regrets this decision, but can understand it.

“For over 90 years, the organisation here in Wengen has strived to hold competitions that are as safe as possible for the participating athletes, the teams, all guests present, as well as the local population,” it said.

“A safe execution is not possible under the current pandemic situation, according to the assessment of the experts.”

France's Alexis Pinturault leads the 2020-21 World Cup overall standings.

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Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I’m abroad?

Given how expensive health insurance premiums are in Switzerland, you may be tempted to suspend your policy while you are abroad. Is this possible?

Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I'm abroad?

Unlike the obligatory car insurance, which you can suspend temporarily by depositing your registration plates at the local motor vehicles office, rules pertaining to health insurance are much stricter.

As the Federal Office of Public Health explains it, “If you leave the country for a certain period to travel or study but do not take up residence abroad, you are still required to have [health] insurance in Switzerland”.

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“During these periods, the risks of illness and accident are covered by military insurance. Your health insurance provider will refund your premiums”, according to FOPH.

Under what circumstances can you cancel your Swiss health insurance?

Swiss law says you can cancel your insurance if you are moving abroad, either permanently for for a period exceeding three months.

If you do so, only claims for treatments given while you still lived in Switzerland will be paid by your insurance; any medical bills for treatment incurred after you officially leave will be denied.

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To announce your departure abroad, you must send your insurance carrier a letter including your name, customer number or AVS/AHV number.

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READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to register your address in Switzerland

You can find out more information about this process here

If you suspend your health insurance for less than six years, you can reactivate it at a later date with the same company when you return to Switzerland.

READ MORE : What you should know about your Swiss health insurance before you go abroad