Switzerland offers crisis hotline and help to foreign nationals amid panic over terrorism fears
Alpine country goes back into lockdown, suspending tourism as the holiday season starts
Switzerland has blocked access to dozens of sites in the country’s five main Alpine regions and reopened the airports of the Lucerne and Geneva airports for a time to ease congestion as tourists await the start of the holiday season.
One person was killed by a car bomb in Zurich last week, and on Sunday the Swiss president, Doris Leuthard, sent a letter to ministers across Europe stating “a terrorist attack is real and possible”.
The Federal Office of Police (fedpol) sent a text alert to tens of thousands of phones. The interior ministry temporarily shut down the St Moritz and Verbier ski resorts in the Bernese Oberland to prevent protests by environmentalists, and said no trains or planes would run for three hours on the Swiss-Italian border.
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In both cases, authorities offered a 24-hour hotline for tourists.
The interior ministry said authorities would prefer to see less panic before deciding if they were going to reopen the port of Biel, the northernmost point of Switzerland, and the cities of St Moritz and Interlaken. Interlaken also has been temporarily closed.
“It’s not business as usual,” said Bernard Saretsky, president of the Swiss Tourist Board. “We are in a time when things are a bit crazy,” he told Zermatt magazine.
This is the second Alpine travel lockdown in recent years. The last was from November 2008 to January 2009, the time between Swiss football games and the Winter Olympics in Turin.
Three Swiss men were convicted of aiding the Algerian militant Islamist group Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who had sent an operation by Algerian accomplices from Spain in July 2007.