St Moritz quarantines hotels, shuts schools

A referendum will question the government’s powers to impose lockdowns

Two hotels in the Swiss ski resort of St Moritz were put under quarantine on Monday and ski schools were closed in attempt to curb an outbreak of the highly infectious new coronavirus variant, news wires reported.

“About a dozen cases are currently known in two hotels. To protect the health of the population and guests, the health department has quarantined the two hotels and ordered corona tests for their employees and guests,” the canton authorities said in a statement. It declined to name the hotels and said it assumed foreigners were among the guests but it did not give their nationalities.

The eastern Swiss canton of Grisons ordered everyone to wear masks in the town of 5,200 residents that prides itself as a birthplace of modern winter sports. Mass testing of residents will take place on Tuesday. Schools and daycare venues are closed. The canton said authorities had identified the N501Y virus mutation, which has been reported in the variants first identified in both Britain and South Africa.

While closing restaurants, bars, theatres and recreational venues to limit spread of the disease, Switzerland has left ski lifts open as long as they maintain measures like mask wearing to protect public health. St Moritz ski areas remain open, as well, following the variant outbreak.

Meanwhile it became clear that later this year Switzerland will hold a referendum on whether to roll back the government’s powers to impose lockdowns and other measures to slow the Covid-19 pandemic. The referendum is to be held after campaigners submitted a petition of some 86,000 signatures this week, much higher than the 50,000 required, triggering a nationwide vote to repeal last year’s Covid-19 Act.

The ballot could come as soon as June, and it appears set to mirror disputes across the globe how far governments should go to limit social interactions in a pandemic or whether to lock down at all.

More on this subject: Coronavirus

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