EXTRA cops were drafted into a swish Swiss ski resort yesterday after more than 200 Brits vanished despite tough covid quarantine rules.
Officials were left blindsided after the holidaymakers in Verbier upped sticks in the middle of the night breaching the emergency regulations.
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The cloak and dagger operation came after the authorities in Verbier announced all arrivals from the UK would have to isolate due to the mutant strain of the virus.
Health chiefs had imposed a retrospective obligatory ten day quarantine on anyone arriving from Britain after the new UK coronavirus variant was discovered.
Brits had been pouring into Switzerland in the run up to Christmas but a surge in cases the new strain led to a scramble to find around 10,000 skiers.
Hoteliers in Verbier – where Prince Andrew and his ex wife have a chalet they are trying to sell – suddenly reported the disappearance of guests after finding rooms empty and food trays untouched.
Verbier said on 21 December that all people who had arrived from the UK since December 14 would need to self-isolate for 10 days from their date of arrival.
But the measures led to 200 of the 420 or so “angry” Brits forced to isolate sneaking out of the town rather than stay cooped up in cramped hotel rooms, SonntagsZeitung newspaper reported.
Yesterday around 200 Brits were still thought to be in Verbier and officers were checking on them at hotels and privately owned chalets to make sure quarantine was being observed.
A police source said: ''We want to make sure that those who are supposed to be staying indoors and quarantining are doing so. We have the names of those who are supposed to and we will be checking up.''
The Brits all left during the weekend and The Sun has discovered four private jets took off from the closest airport at Sion bound for Britain – with two landing at Biggin Hill, one at Farnborough and one at Manchester.
SNOW WAY OUT
Yesterday an official at Sion airport said:''There were suddenly a lot of enquiries for flights back to Britain and we had four take off from here. It was the holidays and so difficult to get crew but if we could I'm sure we could have handled more flights.''
An employee at the Hotel Ermitage in Verbier said: “We had one British person. But he quit the hotel in the early hours of Christmas morning without telling us.
“I called him in his room and there was no answer. The room was empty.
“I had his credit card details so it was no problem in terms of payment. He had been due to stay until the 28th.
“But I am a hotel, not a jail. These people are on holiday. I understand their position.
“We are a holiday resort not a prison. I don’t blame them for leaving rather than sitting cooped up in a bedroom 24-hours-a-day.”
Another Verbier hotelier, who did not want to be named, said: “We had two Britons but they left on Christmas Eve. They had arrived on Saturday 19th for a week, and then were told they weren’t allowed to ski and had to stay imprisoned in their rooms. To be honest I am surprised they stayed as long as they did.
“They were very nice people but they didn’t tell me they were leaving, maybe they thought I would tell the police which of course is not my job.”
Regional president Christophe Dabellay said: ''This is a question of individual responsibility. Hotels and tourist boards were all informed and they in turn told their British guests.
"SMS messages were also sent to all those who arrived in the country with a UK registered mobile phone but at the end of the day it is impossible to check everyone.''
Swiss home affairs minister, Alain Berset, said the situation was a ''problem'' and added:''I don't know where they have gone. I think they just went home.
"But the federal government has no options, we are not responsible for enforcement. We had to react quickly that everything wasn't going perfectly, that's clear.''
Five bedroom chalets in Verbier over Christmas and New Year cost on average around £22,000 a week to rent and last night there were hardly any available to rent on tourist board websites.
Those who breach the quarantine face fines of up to £8,300.
Verbier is nicknamed ‘Little London’ for its popularity with Brits but there has been an upsurge in “xenophobic resentments” against UK visitors, said SonntagsZeitung
“Anyone who speaks English is suspicious,” it said.
An elderly woman from London, who had self-isolated in her second home in Verbier, was quoted in Swiss media as saying: “For days I was put under general suspicion. It was unbearable.”
Voted Switzerland's best ski resort for the past two years, Verbier markets itself as offering "adrenaline-packed thrills, simple pleasures and a chic lifestyle".
Switzerland's ski resorts were set to boom with snow-seeking Brits but a flight ban due to the new Covid-19 variant raging in England put those plans on ice.
Flights between Switzerland and the two countries were halted on Monday, but the first outbound flights from Zurich to Britain resumed on Thursday.
Two cases of the new British coronavirus variant have been detected in Switzerland and one in neighbouring Liechtenstein, the Swiss health ministry said Sunday.
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