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French ski resort protests against Covid-19 ban with Swiss flags

Chatel town hall
Nicolas Rubin, the mayor of Châtel, (pictured) is hoping for a solution to be agreed between France and Switzerland Keystone

The mayor of Châtel, a French ski resort on the Swiss border, is unhappy with the French government’s decision to close ski areas. As a sign of protest, several Swiss flags have been displayed on the town hall for a couple of days. Swiss pistes are open for business.

“A lack of listening and consultation, a rash decision – France has decided to close its ski areas when its neighbour has taken a different position. Symbolically, the town hall of Châtel is decked out in the colours of Switzerland,” tweeted the mayor, Nicolas Rubin.

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He told radio station France Bleu that this “symbolic” and “peaceful” gesture marks Châtel’s support for a solution agreed between the two countries and which is adapted to the health situation.

“The Swissest French resort,” as its slogan claims, is part of the Franco-Swiss Portes du Soleil ski region. The Swiss part will be open to skiers.

Alpine countries have been debating for several days over whether to close winter resorts to prevent the further spread of Covid-19 by tourists. Germany and Italy want resorts to remain closed until the New Year, while Austria and Switzerland have ruled out closing theirs. France has decided to allow resorts to open but not ski lifts.

On Tuesday French President Emmanuel Macron said the government planned to take “restrictive and dissuasive measures” to prevent French people from going skiing abroad, particularly to Switzerland, during the festive season.

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A skier on a lift in Davos on October 25, 2020.

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For his part, Swiss Interior Minister Alain Berset said last week that Switzerland was “autonomous and [we] can decide ourselves whether we leave ski areas open. But we know what’s at stake. The situation must not get out of hand”.

Mass gatherings

The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief said on Monday that the risk of catching Covid-19 while skiing is likely minimal.

“I suspect many people won’t be infected barrelling down the slopes on their skis,” said Michael Ryan said at a WHO news briefing in Geneva.

“The real issues are going to come at airports, tour buses taking people to and from ski resorts, ski lifts … and places where people come together,” he said. “We would advise that all countries look at their ski season and other reasons for mass gathering,” he said, warning that indoor socialising after skiing might be particularly risky.

Earlier this year, ski resorts in France, Italy and Austria were the sites of several superspreading events that helped seed Covid-19 outbreaks across the continent.

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