A British tourist has been blamed for a Covid-19 outbreak in Switzerland which has forced officials to scrap prestigious downhill races in the Ski World Cup.
The Lubernhorn classic in Wengen, one of the most well attended races on the circuit, has been called off after around 60 people at the mountain resort tested positive for the virus.
Swiss officials said that half of all the cases could be traced back to one British tourist who visited Wengen over the Christmas season.
The races were moved to Kitzbuehel earlier this week but today Austrian health officials said that a cluster of 17 covid cases were discovered in the Tyrol.
The races are now to be hosted at Flachau this weekend, an Austrian village around 70 miles east.
Sam Morse of the US competes during the Downhill race of the men’s FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup in Wengen last year
The stunning skiing in Wengen, Switzerland, is a favourite of British tourists with breathtaking vistas that include the Eiger, Moench and Jungfrau mountains
Earlier, Swiss health official Gundekar Giebel had blamed all of the cases in Wengen on a single British tourist.
Giebel said: ‘In a hotel, the virus had already spread during the Christmas season. Almost half of the 60 cases so far can be traced back to a single British tourist.
‘Now the race has been cancelled. The danger is too great that the event could develop into a super-spreader event.’
Traditionally, crowds of about 35,000 people attend the Lubernhorn downhill, which is also televised internationally and which Switzerland uses to highlight breathtaking vistas that include the Eiger, Moench and Jungfrau mountains that rise to more than 14,000ft.
Bernhard Aregger, CEO of Swiss-Ski, told Ski Racing: ‘The decision hurts enormously – all the more because the organising committee has done excellent preparatory work.
‘The cancellation of one of the most prestigious race weekends in the World Cup calendar makes the heart of every ski fan bleed.
‘Nevertheless, it is our job to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Even when making such difficult decisions, health is in the foreground.’
The Arenas Resort Victoria-Lauberhorn has now announced it will shut by January 20 in consultation with the cantonal authorities.
The population has been asked to stay indoors and get tested for covid.
Local authorities have sent a mobile test teams to the alpine village to help out.
Swiss health officials have not yet determined whether the outbreak is down to the new British strain of covid, which is believed to be much more infectious.
Switzerland’s Mauro Caviezel clears a curve with the north face of the Eiger mountain in the background during a training session of the Men’s downhill race at the FIS Alpine SkiingWorld Cup in Wengen last year
Wiley Maple of the U.S. in action during the first run of last year’s Lauberhorn classic in Wengen
The latest skiing cancellation comes less than a month before the winter World Championships in Cortina d’Ampezzo (Italy, February 8-21).
After last season was cut short by the pandemic, this season is being skied without crowds.
France’s Alexis Pinturault leads the 2020-21 World Cup overall standings.
Tourists across Europe have descended on Switzerland and Austria this winter, the only countries which have kept their ski resorts open amid the pandemic.
The Swiss ‘lockdown light’ strategy seeks to balance health considerations with the broader impacts to society and the economy.