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SKIING

Skiing: Relaxed Swiss Covid rules attracting ‘record numbers of foreigners’

Switzerland is attracting record numbers of foreign tourists thanks to its comparatively relaxed Covid measures, with up to five times as many foreigners on the Swiss slopes as before the pandemic.

A skier gets some sweet air jumping off that fresh white pow pow over a triangle.
Are Switzerland's relaxed skiing rules placing it at risk? Photo by Laurent Perren on Unsplash

In October, Switzerland courted controversy when announcing that the Covid certificate, the country’s primary tool to encourage vaccination and stop the spread of the pandemic, would not be required for winter sports. 

This put Switzerland at odds with its neighbours, many of whom put in place strict rules for winter sports. 

Stupidity or freedom? Foreigners in Switzerland on Covid rules for skiing

While the decision may have put Switzerland at a higher Covid risk, it has had a positive impact on the country’s tourism industry. 

Switzerland’s RTS media organisation reported on Sunday that unlike some of its neighbours which have struggled, Switzerland is now hitting pre-Covid highs in ski resort areas. 

Switzerland has become particularly popular among foreigners wanting to escape the harsh rules at home. According to a study by Swiss Tourism, some ski areas in Switzerland are seeing five times as many guests from abroad as before the pandemic. 

Swiss Tourism spokesperson Markus Berger said the relaxed Covid rules were a major motivator. 

“Our survey showed that up to five times as many guests came to the Swiss ski areas from neighbouring countries, i.e. from Germany for German-speaking Switzerland and from France for French-speaking Switzerland,” Berger told RTS. 

“They have often stated that the less stringent restrictions for Covid-19 were the reason for their trips to Switzerland,”

Klaus Nussbaumer, CEO of the Pizolbahnen ski resort, told RTS that lax rules were not the only reason, however. 

READ MORE: Can Switzerland’s ski season withstand Omicron surge?

“We are now posting numbers like before the pandemic again. This is certainly due to the fact that the weather and snow were good even at Christmas. And that the restaurants are open again,” Nussbaumer said. 

While the Covid certificate is still required to visit restaurants in Switzerland, restaurants have been forced to close in parts of Germany and in Austria over the previous weeks. 

Berger however said he did not feel the influx of foreigners attracted by fewer Covid measures would lead to greater risk – particularly as ski resorts saw it in their interest to reduce infections.

“Everyone emphasises that compliance with the protective measures has top priority. The motto of those responsible is: We want to take the momentum of today and stay open for the whole season.”

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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