Omicron: International travel restrictions criticised by expert
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Switzerland has effectively wiped out British tourism as it added the country to its quarantine list amid concerns about the Omicron variant. It means Britons must quarantine for 10 days and produce a negative Covid test to travel there.
The new measures have thrown winter holidays to the destination up in the air, with ski resorts reeling from a glut of cancellations.
Christophe Darbellay, the Minister of the Economy in Valais – an alpine region of Switzerland known for its ski resorts – told local news: "This is a very hard blow for tourism.”
He described the new restrictions as "the worst measure taken by the government in months”, labelling it “an exaggerated reaction”.
Simon Meeke, director of a travel agency specialising in winter holidays, said: "It looks like there’s a discrimination factor against British skiers.
Britons must quarantine for 10 days and produce a negative Covid test to travel there (Image: Getty)
"If you are fully vaccinated, if you show your PCR test negative, what is the difference between a British skier and someone from another country?"
The Federal Office of Public Health announced on Tuesday the country had recorded its first two cases of the Omicron variant.
After a session the same day, the Swiss Federal Council proposed new Covid restrictions in the wake of concerns about the new variant emerging from southern Africa.
Covid certificates are now required for private meetings of more than 10 people, and mask wearing indoors has been reimposed.
Darbellay: ‘It is an exaggerated reaction’ (Image: Getty)
The measures are proposed to be in place until January 24 – effectively cancelling many Christmas holiday plans.
The Swiss tourism industry is already feeling the impact of the new restrictions, with many hotels facing a wave of cancellations.
Markus Bretter is a hotelier in Verbier – the premier ski resort in Valais, which until recently was home to Prince Andrew's chalet.
He told Radio Television Suisse yesterday: "All day Monday we were processing cancellations, after so many months of hard work.
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‘We lost 20 percent of our bookings in one day and it’s still going on today’ (Image: Getty)
"We lost 20 percent of our bookings in one day and it’s still going on today."
Keith Nicholson, a British tourist who has regularly visited the resort since 1986, said: "Smiley faces, blue skies. What's not to love about skiing in Switzerland?
"I was supposed to fly to Geneva on Saturday and then go to Verbier. But if you have to do a ten-day quarantine, it’s not worth it.
"I’m depressed, this makes me more reluctant to book my holidays in countries that are so quick to close the borders."
‘If you are fully vaccinated, if you show your PCR test negative, what is the difference?’ (Image: Getty)
He added that he was now considering going to North America for his next ski trip.
In 2018, UK tourists accounted for the fifth largest tourism market for Switzerland.
European nations have imposed their own restrictions since the Omicron variant was first reported.
Last week, the UK was one of the first nations to place restrictions on travel from southern African nations.
Britain has placed six nations in the region – including South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe – on the red list for travel.
The EU announced the same day that it was suspending air travel to and from southern African nations, after a case of the new variant was confirmed in Belgium.
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega
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