British tourist blamed after famous Swiss ski race cancelled by COVID

Italy's Christof Innerhofer competes in the Men's Downhill of the Lauberhorn during the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup, on January 19, 2019, in Wengen. (Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP)        (Photo credit should read LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP via Getty Images)
A previous Lauberhorn race, which has been cancelled this year after a British tourist introduced the UK-identified strain. (AFP via Getty Images)

A British tourist has been blamed for the cancellation of a ski race after officials feared they had brought in the more infectious coronavirus variant first found in the UK.

Swiss authorities called off the Lauberhorn competition this weekend, the longest FIS World Cup downhill race, after fears were raised that the variant was spreading in Wengen.

The 4,455 metre (2.7 mile) competition, which takes place above the town, was one of a set of downhill and slalom events to be cancelled after 60 COVID-19 infections were detected in the area, up from virtually none in mid-December.

“We could trace all, or nearly all the cases, to a single person who traveled to Wengen from Great Britain,” Linda Nartey, the cantonal doctor in Bern, said.

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“In the meantime, the infections spread very quickly to the workers in Wengen.”

Reuters reported that the doctor said the British tourist should have gone into quarantine but did not, and was only isolated after receiving a positive test.

Nartey added that contract tracers were working “seven days a week, day and night” but had not yet managed to slow the UK-discovered variant from spreading in the community.

In December, hundreds of Brits holidaying in Verbier fled the village after the Swiss government imposed a quarantine to contain the UK-identified strain.

About 200 reportedly fled to avoid the 10-day quarantine put in place on all visitors from the UK.

The Wengen ski resort remain open despite officials in Bern asking residents to stay at home and practise social distancing.

Switzerland has tried to keep its resorts open, unlike other states with Alpine ski destinations, including Italy, France, Austria and Germany.

The Lauberhorn race can attract 35,000 visitors. Race organisers said of the cancellation: “The aim was to prevent the virus from circulating in an uncontrolled way during the Lauberhorn races and thus endangering the participating athletes and officials as well as the local population and thus the further winter ski season in Wengen.”

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