Covid outbreak at Swiss luxury ski resort sees 400 people in lockdown as South Africa mutant strain wreaks havoc

AN elite Swiss mountain resort has been hit by the South African mutant Covid strain — with 400 staff and guests forced to quarantine. 

Two luxury hotels in St Moritz have been locked down after a dozen positive tests for a highly infectious coronavirus variant.

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About 300 employees and 95 guests at the Grand Hotel des Bains Kempinski St Moritz and Badrutt's Palace Hotel have so far been quarantined. 

The eastern canton of Grisons ordered everyone to wear masks in the town of 5,200 that prides itself as a birthplace of modern winter sports.

Those under quarantine will be tested and those receiving positive tests isolated. 

Those who test negative may be able to depart, a spokesman for the region's coronavirus task force said — but they must follow quarantine rules once they arrive home.

The nationalities of those affected were not given, but it is believed foreigners were likely among hotel guests.

Authorities had identified mutations common to highly infectious coronavirus variants found in South Africa and Britain.

But officials could not immediately say whether it matched either variant exactly because samples had yet to be genetically sequenced.

SKI LIFTS OPEN DESPITE RISK

Switzerland has left ski lifts including in St Moritz open, while closing restaurants, bars and theatres.

Swiss ski areas have been embroiled in coronavirus concerns.

In December, British tourists in places including Verbier were ordered into quarantine.

This month, the famed Lauberhorn World Cup downhill in Wengen was cancelled after a single British tourist was thought to have been the origin of a super spreader event.

Local St Moritz officials defended the decision to keep skiing open, saying mask-wearing and social distancing makes it safe, and letting people disperse may help limit infections.

Christian Gartmann, an official with a Covid-19 task force in the St Moritz area, said: "If there are 100 people on the ski pistes, then there will be 100 fewer in the villages.” 

The risk of catching coronavirus at ski resorts is already well known. 

In February and March, outbreaks at resorts like Ischgl in Austria's Tyrol helped spread Covid across Europe in the first place.

Just before the New Year, hundreds of Brit tourists fled a luxury Swiss ski resort under the cover of darkness after being forced into Covid quarantine.

Last week it emerged that a group of British ski instructors have been blamed for an outbreak of coronavirus in the Austrian Alps following weeks of non-stop partying.

The group of 60 arrived just before Christmas to train as instructors in the resort and travelled just as details of the mutant UK strain emerged.

Officials said the cluster had emerged in the town of Jochberg in the Tyrol and the town was being placed into a strict lockdown with all 1500 residents ordered to be tested.

The Brits fled Verbier under cover of darkness

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