Officials in the Swiss mountain resort of St Moritz quarantined employees and guests of two luxury hotels, closed ski schools and kept schoolchildren home from class on Monday after a dozen positive tests for a highly infectious coronavirus variant.
About 300 employees and 95 guests at the Grand Hotel des Bains Kempinski St Moritz and Badrutt’s Palace Hotel were quarantined. The eastern canton of Grisons ordered everyone to wear masks in the town of 5,200 that prides itself as a birthplace of modern winter sports.
Those under quarantine will be tested and those receiving positive tests isolated. Those who test negative may be able to depart, a spokesman for the region’s coronavirus task force said, but must follow quarantine rules once they arrive home.
The nationalities of those affected were not given, but Grisons said foreigners were likely among hotel guests.
Authorities had identified mutations common to highly infections coronavirus variants found in South Africa and Britain, though officials could not immediately say whether it matched either variant exactly because samples had yet to be genetically sequenced.
Switzerland has left ski lifts including in St Moritz open, while closing restaurants, bars and theatres.
Swiss ski areas have been embroiled in coronavirus concerns. In December, British tourists in places including Verbier were ordered into quarantine.
This month, the famed Lauberhorn World Cup downhill in Wengen was cancelled after a single British tourist was thought to have been the origin of a superspreader event.
Local St Moritz officials defended the decision to keep skiing open, saying mask-wearing and social distancing makes it safe, and letting people disperse may help limit infections.
“If there are 100 people on the ski pistes, then there will be 100 fewer in the villages,” said Christian Gartmann, an official with a COVID-19 task force in the St Moritz area.
Main Photo: A general view of the St. Moritz Speed Skating Oval in St. Moritz, Switzerland. EPA-EFE/THOMAS LOVELOCK / OIS HANDOUT