Hundreds of British tourists forced into quarantine at an upmarket ski resort due to fears about the new, more contagious variant of COVID-19 have fled under the cover of darkness, according to a report.
Around 200 out of an estimated 420 affected UK holidaymakers who were in isolation in Verbier, Switzerland, are thought to have left in the night, rather than remain indoors for more than a week and see their plans to hit the slopes massively disrupted.
It follows a ruling from Swiss authorities that anyone who arrived in the country from Britain since 14 December had to stay in quarantine for 10 days.
On 20 December, Switzerland announced an entry ban for all travellers from the UK, and suspended all flights between the UK and Switzerland, after the new coronavirus variant was detected in southeast England.
Then on 23 December, the Swiss government brought in an exemption, allowing flights to and from the UK from Christmas Eve to enable residents of the UK and Switzerland to return for the festive period.
Two cases of the new variant have been detected in Switzerland and one in neighbouring Liechtenstein, the Swiss health ministry said on Sunday.
Following the quarantine move by Swiss officials, some of the affected British tourists in Verbier left immediately, while others stuck it out for a short time before quitting, according to a local newspaper.
"Many of them stayed in quarantine for a day before they set off unnoticed under the cover of darkness," Jean-Marc Sandoz, a spokesman for the wider Bagnes municipality, told the SonntagsZeitung.
He called the whole situation "the worst week our community has ever experienced".
Speaking about the hotel staff, Mr Sandoz told the ATS news agency: "It was when they saw the meal trays remained untouched that the hoteliers noticed that the customers had gone."
He said that according to a survey on Saturday of the resort's hotels, fewer than 10 people would still be in quarantine and the rest would either have left or their isolation time would have ended.
"We can't blame them. In most cases, quarantine was untenable. Imagine four people staying in a hotel room of 20 square metres," Mr Sandoz added.
He said the tourists had left feeling "a little angry with Switzerland" and with the sense of having been "trapped".
British tourists usually make up about 20% of Verbier's visitors, with many starting to arrive after Christmas.