ZURICH (Reuters) – Swiss ski resorts can remain open for now as long as they have strict security measures in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus, Health Minister Alain Berset said Thursday.
Neighbors France, Italy, Austria and Germany have all ordered even upland lifts that could operate earlier this winter to remain closed in the hope that all resorts can reap the benefits in peak season, if and when infection rates slow down.
“In Switzerland the situation is much easier, one can still ski, that’s always the goal. Obviously with respect to very strict measures, we have to have a plan of protection and everything has to be clear, “Berset told a news conference in Bern.
He’s left the door open to changing policies if conditions change later in the year, when a two-week holiday period lures many winter sports fans to the slopes.
“The situation remains very serious and very unstable … and we have not yet decided how it will be in the future,” said Berset, adding Bern was in close contact with his neighbor and Swiss territory.
He acknowledged tensions would arise if the Swiss resorts were the only open resorts. “We have to discuss this with the cantons but we are a sovereign country and can decide for ourselves what facts are in our region,” he added.
Switzerland has adopted a “middle ground” to curb a pandemic that has infected more than 300,000 and killed 4,109 here, leaving the country largely open for business while urging people to keep their distance and embrace proper hygiene.
Berset said Switzerland could get its first limited supply of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of January if all goes well. It will not force people to get the vaccine, which it plans to distribute to patients free of charge.
Switzerland has signed vaccine contracts with Moderna and AstraZeneca and reserves doses from Pfizer upon completion of the contract.
Reporting by Michael Shields; editing by Stephanie Nebehay and Barbara Lewis