First Swiss canton to carry out mass testing

A skier in a face mask in Arosa, canton Graubünden Keystone / Gian Ehrenzeller

Canton Graubünden, home to numerous ski resorts, has announced targeted mass testing of residents as part of its measures to shore up the ski season. This is a Swiss-wide first.

This content was published on December 4, 2020 - 12:28

The pilot project will take place December 11-13 in the regions of Maloja (tourism region), Bernina (high number of cases) and Engiadina Bassa/Val Müstair. Testing will be voluntary, cantonal officials announced at a press conference on Friday.

Based on how this goes, and if needed, mass testing could be extended to the entire canton in southeast Switzerland, officials added.

“We want to massively increase testing capacity. We are doing a pilot project for Switzerland,” said cantonal government member Peter Peyer.

Ski season in jeopardy

The mountainous canton counts St Moritz, Klosters, Arosa and Davos among its resorts. Davos is also the traditional base for the World Economic Forum (although maybe not next year, it has been announced).

Cantonal authorities said the aim of mass testing is to contain the spread of the pandemic, to save the winter season, particularly for strong tourism and ski regions, and allow people to celebrate the holidays together.

Further measures include a ban on groups of more than ten meeting up both publicly and privately and closing all restaurants until December 18.

Winter sports should be possible. The cantonal government wants to “prevent the closure of ski areas with all its means”, local government head Christian Rathgeb told journalists at a media conference in the cantonal capital Chur.

Winter tourism is “key for our economic progress” so there needs to be “stricter measures for two weeks, intensified testing and intensified checks”, he added.

Europe-wide problem

Switzerland has so far said that it will keep its ski resorts open. This has put it on a collision course with some of its neighbours. France and Austria want to prevent their citizens from skiing abroad by imposing compulsory quarantines.

A further announcement from the Swiss government on ski resorts could come later on Friday.

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