Following the news that French ski slopes are to be closed whilst Swiss ones remain open, French Prime Minister Jean Castex has announced that France is to start carrying out random checks along the border in order to prevent travelers from spreading Covid-19 further. Here’s a look at the problem, and the implications that it might have for travel.
Skiing is a popular past time in Europe, and the Christmas period is one that sees skiers around the continent flock in their droves to the slopes and lodges in France, Switzerland, Austria and beyond. However, the lack of a consensus among European nations towards what should be done regarding ski slopes has forced some countries to take drastic action.
Whilst France and Germany have closed their ski lifts and slopes to the public, other states in Europe – such as Switzerland – have made the decision to keep their slopes open and allow skiing over the winter holidays. Given the fact that France and Switzerland share a land border and have several routes between the countries without customs controls, it has been a source of contention for the French government.
It was this issue that led to France announcing that it would be taking the severe measure of carrying out random border checks on those near the border to ensure they aren’t traveling for a skiing vacation in Switzerland. France has even handed prefects along the border the powers to impose 7-day isolation notices whilst Covid-19 testing takes place, a more extreme measure undertaken in a bid to further deter travelers from trying their luck and heading for the border.
No Agreement Yet
There are several European nations fighting to establish a united policy towards the closing and opening dates for ski resorts. Italy and Germany are leading the fight along with France in a bid to ensure that the number of cases in these countries are mitigated, and have both closed their ski slopes for this season.
Italy, which has seen in excess of 333,000 cases in the past two weeks, has limited travel between regions and municipalities, with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte stating that his country “can’t afford” holidays on the snow. He also made it clear that if other countries didn’t follow suit and instead left their resorts open, it increased the risk of Italians heading abroad and bringing the virus home. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, meanwhile, said that she will see if she can reach an agreement regarding the closure of all resorts in Europe. Given that Switzerland is outside the EU, any blanket ban in Europe would subsequently see them unaffected and free to make their own decisions regarding the closing or opening of ski facilities.
Ski tourism is a major industry in several European cities, and the decisions taken by the likes of France, Germany and Italy have caused controversy.
Some French towns close to the border with Switzerland, such as Châtel, have taken to displaying Swiss flags on buildings. Others have been the subject of more fierce opposition, with more than a thousand demonstrators meeting to protest the decision to close the slopes in Bourg d’Oisans.
This has caused several implications for travel. Those hoping to go between France and Switzerland may see their journey times increased. In severe cases, they may be turned away at the border or subject to isolation periods following testing.
As it stands, only those from some EU countries and select non-EU countries are permitted to enter France, and all entries must provide evidence of a PCR test.
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