Coronavirus live news: British tourists flee Swiss ski resort quarantine; inoculation in EU begins | World news

Skiers wearing face masks in Verbier in November.

Skiers wearing face masks in Verbier, Switzerland in November. Photograph: Jean-Christophe Bott/EPA

Hundreds of British tourists quarantining in the Swiss ski resort of Verbier fled in the night, rather than finishing their period of self isolation.

About 200 of the 420 tourists in the luxury Alpine resort left under the cover of darkness, according to the country’s SonntagsZeitung newspaper.

The Swiss government introduced a 10-day retrospective quarantine for anyone who arrived from Britain since 14 December, after the detection of a new potentially more contagious Covid-19 variant. Two cases have been detected in the country, and one in neighbouring Liechtenstein.

“Many of them stayed in quarantine for a day before they set off unnoticed under the cover of darkness,” Jean-Marc Sandoz, spokesman for the Bagnes municipality, told SZ.

He called the whole situation “the worst week our community has ever experienced”. The situation was given away by untouched breakfasts, left by visitors who had escaped, he said.

The new quarantine rules also applied to hundreds of British tourists who had planned to spend the Christmas break in Verbier, an alpine village located in the municipality of Bagnes in Canton du Valais, nicknamed “Little London” by locals for the British visitors who make up 20% of tourists during a typical winter season.


Royal Free hospital in London

The Royal Free hospital in London has cancelled all non-emergency surgery until mid-February and restricted staff holidays. Photograph: Neil Hall/EPA

Hospitals in England have been told to free up beds, due to the growing number of coronavirus patients.

NHS England has said the entire health service will have to stay on the highest level of alert until at least the end of March. It comes as NHS trust bosses in England said the intense pressures they were facing were “extremely challenging” and that hospitals had almost as many Covid patients now as in April.

In a letter, NHS Improvement bosses told hospitals that where possible they should send patients needing surgery to local private health facilities, discharge as many inpatients as possible and prepare for the Nightingale field hospitals to open.

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