Former 'Brexit bad boy' fled in haste to avoid sudden Covid-19 quarantine in Switzerland

New strain of coronavirus may have arrived in Europe in November

A leading Brexiteer and former diplomat has told of his frantic dash from Switzerland to the UK to escape quarantine.

Andy Wigmore, a spokesman for the Leave.EU campaign and self-confessed "bad boy of Brexit", was at the Wengen ski resort when he faced going into mandatory 14-day quarantine amid Swiss attempts to stop the spread of a more infectious strain of coronavirus that emerged in England.

He is among hundreds of Britons who were said to have left Switzerland hours after the country imposed quarantine.

Staff at another luxury resort in Verbier said at the weekend many British guests left “under the cover of darkness” to avoid being stuck inside their rooms for two weeks.

Mr Wigmore and his family were on the slopes when he received a message the Swiss border was due to shut within hours.

"We had three-and-a-half hours. We dropped the car at the airport, then went to Basel and took a train over the border," he told The Telegraph.

"There were so many police around at the border, we saw Brits being stopped. We only just made it with 20 minutes to spare – if we hadn't had the tip-off, we would have been stuck."

Jean-Marc Sandoz, a spokesman for the Bagnes municipality, said he couldn’t blame British tourists for wanting to leave.

“In most cases, quarantine was untenable. Imagine four people staying in a hotel room of 20 square metres," Mr Sandoz told the ATS news agency.

Mr Sandoz added that the situation was "the worst week our community has ever experienced".

However, German researchers said on Tuesday that the new strain of coronavirus may have been on the continent as early as November.

Researchers were "able to sequence the variant of the B1.1.7 virus in a person infected in November this year", the health ministry of Lower Saxony said.

This is the same strain "responsible for a large proportion of the infections detected in the south of England," it said.

The variant was found in an elderly patient with underlying health conditions who has since died. His wife was also infected but survived.

The couple caught the virus after their daughter returned from a trip to Britain in mid-November, where she "in all likelihood" became infected with the new strain, a statement said.

Meanwhile, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer warned that a third wave of coronavirus must be avoided “at all costs”, hinting that the country’s hard lockdown may continue beyond January 10, when it had been expected to end.

"We must not risk everything we have achieved with quick easing, otherwise it will start all over again," he told Bild am Sonntag. "If the lockdown does not have a sufficient effect, the measures must be tightened."

Another 12,892 positive cases and 852 deaths were reported in Germany on Tuesday.

In the Netherlands, Dutch officials said the country would record a war-like total death toll this year.

Up to last week, around 162,000 deaths had been reported in the country of 17 million this year, 13,000 more than would have been expected in a regular year, the Dutch national statistics office said.

"Such an increase of the number of deceased has not been reported since World War Two," it said.

In the UK, the world’s first patient to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine outside trial conditions received her second shot.

Margaret Keenan, 90, received her first dose in front of the world’s media on December 9.