As European nations squabble over whether to reopen ski stations, Switzerland on Friday said that its winter resorts can open over Christmas with tighter protection measures — while amateur festive sing-songs are banned.
Rival European countries are at odds over whether to allow skiers to hit the slopes over the Christmas period, amid fears that winter sports crowds could help spread COVID-19.
“The ski areas in Switzerland will be able to remain open during the Christmas holidays,” the Swiss government said in a statement. “But they must rigorously apply strict protection plans and capacity limits... The aim is to prevent the spread of the virus in tourist areas.”
The statement said there would be no capacity limit on the slopes themselves, but trains and cable cars can be only two-thirds full, while physical distancing must be maintained.
Masks and distancing are mandatory in lines, and on ski lifts and chair lifts.
Restaurants in ski areas can stay open, but diners can only come inside once a table is free.
“These measures will reduce gatherings and therefore the risk of contamination,” the Swiss government said.
The winter ski season has been the subject of debate as Germany, France and Italy pushed for an EU-wide ban on ski tourism until early next month.
Besides the skiing rules, Switzerland announced reduced capacity limits in larger shops, contact tracing for groups of diners in all restaurants and recommended more widespread working from home during the festive period.
Meanwhile, most Christmas caroling has been put on ice.
“Singing, whether indoors or outdoors, is not permitted, apart from in a family setting” or schools, the Swiss government said.
“This ban covers choirs and congregations at religious services and certain New Year celebrations involving singing,” although professional choirs and singers are exempt, it said.
On New Year’s Eve, closing time for restaurants would be extended from 11pm to 1am in a bid to reduce the risk of spontaneous private gatherings.
In Switzerland, COVID-19 cases jumped in early October as the second wave hit, and the government imposed restrictions.
Daily new case numbers have been falling since peaking in late October.
However, “the epidemiological situation in Switzerland remains extremely serious,” the government said, with infection rates stagnating at a high level or even rising in some regions, while hospitals are “still extremely strained.”
So far, 344,497 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Switzerland, while 5,293 people have died.
From Monday next week, Switzerland is to impose mandatory quarantine for 10 days on people coming from the US, Poland, Portugal and Serbia, plus certain regions of neighboring Italy and Austria.
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