Thousands face ski break chaos as Omicron variant hits global travel

Thousands of British holidaymakers planning Christmas ski trips to the French Alps have had their plans thrown into uncertainty when operators said they would not be able to fly into Geneva because of the new Swiss quarantine rules.

Thousands face ski break chaos as Omicron variant hits global travel
© Getty Images Verbier. Switzerland

Geneva airport is one of the busiest arrival points for skiers heading to some of the most popular French resorts such as Morzine, Avoriaz, Flaine, Megeve and Meribel.

However, passengers flying there from the UK now have to quarantine for 10 days when they reach Switzerland even if they are fully vaccinated.

The restrictions were announced by the Swiss government on Saturday in response to Britons testing positive to the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

According to updated Foreign Office guidance, only arrivals who are transiting through Swiss airports without going landside will be exempt from the quarantine rule.

Operators finalising their December travel arrangements now face a scramble to move flights to French airports such as Lyon, Chambéry or Grenoble or face a massive wave of cancellations at the start of the season.

One senior figure at a leading ski holiday company said: “It’s a tricky situation to say the least.”

A spokeswoman for tour operator Tui, which in a normal season flies around 170,000 Britons to ski resorts with its Crystal Ski Holidays brand, said: “We start taking people out on December 21 and we are seeing a lot of inquiries from people so they can understand their options.

“They can make free changes to their dates and destinations up to 14 days before they travel. If they have to self isolate when they arrive because a quarantine requirement is in place then we will cancel and they will get a full refund.”

Holidays to Spain were also in doubt for many families with teenage children after the Madrid authorities tightened rules to require proof of full vaccination before admission to the country. All children over the age of 12 will be covered by the new requirement but the British Government is currently only offering a single jab to 12-to-15-year-olds.

Other countries off limits to British travellers will include Japan, Israel and Morocco, which have announced bans on all foreign travellers. Australia has also delayed reopening its borders for two weeks,

Meanwhile a Portuguese football club was revealed to have been hit with 13 cases of the Omicron variant of coronavirus after a player recently returned from South Africa.

The new variant was found after Belenenses played a Primeira Liga match against Benfica on Saturday. The game started with just nine Belenenses players on the pitch because the rest of their squad were isolating and only seven returned to the field after half-time. The match was abandoned two minutes into the second half with Benfica leading 7-0. “We’re all in isolation except for the youth team that didn’t play on Saturday, 44 people are in isolation,” a club spokesman said.

Belenenses defender Cafu Phete tested positive for Covid-19 after returning to Portugal last week from international duty in South Africa.

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