Infections hit two luxury hotels in St. Moritz

ST MORITZ

The well-known hotel in St. Moritz has been quarantined by the authorities due to the South African variant: managing director Richard Leuenberger tells us about the last, agitated hours spent by customers and staff - Mayor Jenny: «Both hotels have been were exemplary»

Infections hit two luxury hotels in St. Moritz
© KEYSTONE / Giancarlo Cattaneo

Infections hit two luxury hotels in St. Moritz

© KEYSTONE / Giancarlo Cattaneo

St. Moritz has woken with a bad, bad surprise . The South African variant of the coronavirus has made its entry into the Engadine luxury mecca forcing the authorities to order quarantine for two five-star hotels. The legendary Badrutt’s Palace and the equally opulent Kempinski. Richard Leuenberger, managing director of the Palace, told ‘onthespot’ about the situation. «A quarantine is a naturally restrictive condition. But this measure was necessary and, as always, we at the Palace are working closely with the authorities. The safety of our guests and staff is our utmost concern».

We ask how the guests are. «We have been asking for a negative swab from all our guests for some time before check-in. A precaution, that went and goes beyond the measures established by the authorities and by most of the other hotels. The guests currently registered at our facility had accepted this provision and, consequently, are showing understanding for the situation that has arisen». Well, actually considering the restrictive measure: but how was daily life in the hotel reorganized following the quarantine? «Guests can move freely within the hotel. The restaurants and the wellness center remain open. Those who had already planned their departure or, following what happened, who wish to leave the hotel can do so when a negative swab is produced. This is a test that they can perform directly from us. On the other hand, those who had booked for the next few days can reschedule the trip or cancel for free».

According to the guests, the measure also involves the Palace staff. «The staff can commute between home and the hotel. None of our employees, it is evident, will be able to stop in other public places such as grocery stores. On the other hand, we also provide and will provide food to our staff: they do not need to do the shopping. There is also the possibility, however, that the staff will sleep here».

The precautions have fallen in the midst of a complicated tourist season, ruined by the virus and restrictions on travel internationally. How much harm does a quarantine do to the image of the Palace? «It is not an ideal situation, when you find out that a hotel is under quarantine. But we sincerely hope that the subject will be treated objectively by the media. Our concept of security, I repeat, goes beyond the measures prescribed by the authorities and even beyond that of most hotels. For example, since the beginning of the winter season we have regularly tested our staff. We have conducted over 1,500 tests since mid-September. Also, as mentioned, we are one of the few hotels to ask guests to take a test before check-in. Of course, even regular tests cannot rule out an infection. Mainly because they represent an instant photograph. However, they help to identify an infection in time and to act accordingly with the right measures. We were already in contact with the Graubünden cantonal doctor before the quarantine and our safety concept was praised by many. We hope, in short, that our concept can help to avoid a worse outbreak».

Mayor Jenny: «The two hotels were exemplary»

Even the mayor of St. Moritz, Christian Jenny, preaches calm after what happened in the city, with two luxury hotels quarantined, the closure of schools and the suspension of ski courses. Furthermore, the mayor is reassuring and, when we asked him, he reiterates how much the measures adopted were necessary to contain the South African variant. «The infections that have emerged on our territory are obviously a bad thing, but the virus could have hit anywhere and in any category of hotel». “The positives were likely discovered very early on because both quarantined hotels tested their employees on a regular basis. The two hotels have acted in an exemplary way». «The municipality implements the measures of the Cantonal Office of Public Health. We support hotels, of course, especially when they need us. We are strengthening communication together with the task force of the entire region». We also ask whether the double quarantine, in addition to the closure of schools, represents damage to St. Moritz’s image: «During this winter season we are witnessing a sharp decline in the number of guests» he comments. «The Alps are very popular with Swiss guests and the Engadine in particular is one of the favorite destinations for Ticino guests. But even the good numbers of overnight stays registered by the Swiss cannot compensate for the almost total absence of guests from abroad. Let us remember that in St. Moritz,

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