A tourism official in the Valais canton is now denying the scale of the incident, saying that only around a dozen tourists likely skipped town — and that they had no way of knowing who the quarantine orders applied to.
Local media reports said hotel operators in Verbier sounded the alarm when British guests checked out in the middle of the night and meals were found untouched in the morning.
Doubts raised over numbers
Verbier tourism director Simon Wiget told Germany's dpa news agency on Monday that, contrary to previous numbers given by venue operators in the ski town, he did not believe that hundreds people had fled. He added that authorities never had official figures of the amount of Britons in the region to whom the quarantine order applied.
Switzerland halted flights from the UK on December 20 and Brits were asked to quarantine for 10 days retrospectively, meaning that by Christmas, many had fulfilled the isolation period.
Wiget said that he did not believe that 200 of the 370 Brits whom the quarantine orders could have applied to had absconded; a figure that was given by municipal spokesperson Jean-Marc Sandoz at the time, who had cited hoteliers and tour operators. His term as spokesperson for the municipality ended on December 31, and he has since declined to comment.
On Sunday, Swiss broadsheet NZZ am Sonntag published a story questioning the veracity of the claims.
Confusion and finger pointing
It is not clear how many Britons are still in Verbier, how many there were at the time the coronavirus variant was identified, how many were subject to the orders and whether they adhered to them or not.
Wiget said that he did not know how such a miscommunication about dozens of absconding Britons had occured, but stressed that ultimately the buck stopped at the local and regional authorities rather than tourism operators.
"I don't have any information on whether people from the UK did not respect quarantine requirements or left illegally," Wiget told dpa, adding that "certain people respected conditions and others did not — but by no means does that mean all from this group are lawbreakers."