Switzerland issued a retroactive quarantine order after a new variant of coronavirus was discovered in the UK.

By Meena Thiruvengadam
December 29, 2020
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Hundreds of British tourists on holiday ski trips skipped out on Switzerland’s retroactive quarantine ahead of Christmas, with some having made escapes from their luxury accommodations in the middle of the night.  

"Some British tourists left immediately, while others decided to stay a little longer,”  Jean-Marc Sandoz, a spokesman for the town of Bagnes, told CNN. “Some of them fled clandestinely during the night."

Switzerland is one of dozens of countries that have restricted travel from the UK in recent weeks after the discovery of a new, potentially stronger variant of the coronavirus. That variant has since been found in Australia, Japan, Canada, South Korea, and across Europe. 

On Dec. 21, Swiss authorities imposed a retroactive quarantine requirement on travelers from the UK and South Africa in an effort to curb transmission of the coronavirus variant. That measure required anyone who had arrived from the UK or South Africa since Dec 14 to quarantine for 10 days. It threatened a 10,000 Swiss franc (around $11,309) fine for anyone violating the rules. 

Verbier, Switzerland ski resort
Credit: Margarita Almpanezou/Getty Images

The Swiss government has since updated its regulations to allow Britons in quarantine in Switzerland a path for returning home legally, however it’s unclear how many UK tourists opted for a clandestine escape. 

The Guardian reported that only a dozen Brits remained in Verbier, a luxurious resort town near the French border where hundreds had been staying, as of Monday. “It’s obviously a problem. There was an order to quarantine that has not been respected,” Swiss health minister Alain Berset told The Guardian

UK health officials had recommended Brits avoid traveling for the Christmas holiday.  

Switzerland was one of the few European countries that opened its ski slopes this year. France, Belgium, and Germany have decided to keep their ski slopes closed to stem coronavirus transmission. 

Meena Thiruvengadam is a Travel + Leisure contributor who has visited 50 countries on six continents and 47 U.S. states. She loves historic plaques, wandering new streets and walking on beaches. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.