Large crowds on Swiss ski slopes spark concern over coronavirus spread

Switzerland’s ski resorts were overrun by a record number of skiers over the weekend, causing health concerns in many places.

Large crowds on Swiss ski slopes spark concern over coronavirus spread
It's not easy to keep distance in ski queues. Photo by AFP

Due to favourable snow conditions on Saturday and Sunday, big crowds came in droves to ski areas throughout the country, Swiss media reported.

For instance, in Flumserberg in canton St. Gallen, the crowds were so large that the fire brigade and police had to be called up, SRF public broadcaster reported.

“The distance rules were not observed for very long”.

In the Valais resort of Anzère, nearly 4,000 people came to ski on Saturday.

The line of those waiting to get on the ski lift extended over 250 metres, and distances were difficult to respect.

“You understand that if we respected the metre fifty distance between each individual, the queue would reach Sion”, said Bertrand Dubuis, director of the Anzère ski lift.

Sion is the capital of Valais, located about 15 km from Anzère.

READ MORE: New Covid variant will become dominant in Switzerland 'by February

The situation was the same in the Vaud resort of Villars.

“We patrol the area but can’t be everywhere,” said Florence Maillard, a spokesperson for the Vaud cantonal police.

“You can’t put a police officer between each person in a queue”, she noted, adding that “it is also the responsibility of the skiers and the resorts to ensure that things run smoothly “.

However, Raphael Zimmerli from Junge Mitte political party tweeted that the Federal Council should close the ski areas altogether to prevent crowds swarming around ski lifts, and potentially spreading the virus. “The five-person rule must be consistently enforced at all levels”, he said.

So far, Switzerland has no plans to close the ski slopes, although authorities don’t rule out this step if the epidemiological situation requires it. 

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.

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 several ski resorts over the weekend.

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.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What are the Covid-19 rules for skiing in Switzerland this winter?


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Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival cancels concerts of unvaccinated British artists

Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival announced on Friday that it was forced to drop the acts of four UK-based artists from its summer program because they haven’t been fully vaccinated yet.

Switzerland's Montreux Jazz Festival cancels concerts of unvaccinated British artists
British singer-songwriter Rag'n'Bone Man was dropped from Montreux Jazx Festival. Photo: GUILLAUME SOUVANT / AFP

The move was done in order to comply with current Covid-19 entry rules into Switzerland, which state that from June 26th, travellers from outside the Schengen zone, including Brits, will only be allowed to enter Switzerland if they have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from the virus. 

READ ALSO: Switzerland relaxes travel rules for vaccinated Americans and Brits: What you need to know

British soul singer Rag’n’Bone Man who was one of the headliners for the 2021 edition of the festival, which starts on July 2nd, will now no longer be able to attend due to not being fully vaccinated.

Other unvaccinated acts based in the UK who were also dropped because of the new entry rules include Inhaler, Alfa Mist and the Yussef Dayes Trio.

The artists have already been replaced with other performers from around Europe including Italian singer Zucchero, Woodkid, Dutch songwriter Benny Sings and Danish jazz trio Athletic Progression.

In a statement on June 25th, festival organisers said they were trying to make sure that the concerts of the other UK artists would continue to go ahead, however it is tricky because of fears over the Delta strain of the Covid virus, which has now become dominant in Britain.

“Whether or not these artists can come depends on their vaccination status and that of their touring entourage, as well as their ability to quarantine at the start of their European tour or before their concert at Montreux,” they said.

The Montreux Jazz Festival is one of just a small handful of big music festivals in Switzerland that will still go ahead this summer. Other music events such as St Gallen Open-Air, Paléo and Bern’s Gurten festival have been cancelled for the second year in a row, due to ongoing fears over the Covid-19 virus.

READ ALSO: UPDATE: What rules do European countries have for travellers from the UK?