Slopes stay open, singing banned as Swiss crack down on COVID-19

ZURICH (Reuters) -Switzerland on Friday said it would allow ski resorts to remain open for domestic tourism but announced some stricter measures including banning singing to control the spread of the coronavirus.

FILE PHOTO: Passengers wearing protective masks wait to board the Jungfraujoch train in the ski resort of Grindelwald, Switzerland, November 23, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

The Alpine country has sought a different path from neighbours Italy, France and Germany which are keeping winter sports under wraps over the holiday period, while Austria has made ski holidays all but impossible.

Instead, Switzerland said resorts will need local authority approval to open after Dec. 22, a move in line with the country’s middle path of keeping the economy relatively open and relying on the public to comply with anti-COVID-19 measures.

Enclosed transport, including ski lifts, trains and gondolas, will be limited to two-thirds capacity from Dec. 9, the government said.

Resorts which do not comply with social distancing regulations could have their permits removed, it said.

Health Minister Alain Berset said Switzerland had been in contact with its neighbouring countries but no pressure had been exerted before it made its decisions.

Still, he was aware of concerns abroad.

“We don’t want to lure people from countries where it (skiing) is forbidden,” he said.

Berset said he was concerned about the persistently high number of COVID-19 cases in recent days.

Swiss health authorities have reported more than 340,000 infections and nearly 5,000 deaths since the outbreak began..

To tackle this, the government announced a raft of other measures, including a ban on singing outside of family circles and in schools.

It recommended gatherings in private and at restaurants be restricted to two households, while it also reduced capacity limits on the number of shoppers allowed into stores at one time and urged employers to let staff work from home.

“The next two to three weeks will be rather decisive,” Berset said. “If we do nothing, cases will rise.”

Reporting by John Revill; Editing by Michael Shields and Janet Lawrence