Travel

Safe Mountain - Safe skiing in times of the pandemic

With the help of the comprehensive protection concept Safe Mountain, efficient protection for employees and guests in tourist areas is ensured despite the pandemic. The concept is currently being applied in the skiing area Weisse Arena and the communities of Flims, Laax and Falera (Switzerland).

The protection concept

Travellers have contributed significantly to the global spread of COVID-19, especially in Europe. Travellers and tourism workers can therefore also contribute to maintaining a low incidence. should be tested for employees in the hotel and catering industry, for travellers returning from areas outside Germany, and for tourists in high-risk areas (e.g. ski resorts) with high risk (e.g. mountain railway, ski hut) that can be controlled by ski passes or similar, sustainable sentinel strategies with the option of scaling up to full testing should be tested.

The insidious thing about COVID-19 is that at least half of the infections occur when the people affected are not yet showing any signs of the disease. Therefore, different measures must be combined in a sensible and targeted manner. Wearing effective mouth-to-nose protection and combining different testing procedures can thus contribute significantly to containing the pandemic. The chain of infection can only be broken by isolating contagious persons.

Concrete action Safe Mountain:

1. Testing up to daily by saliva gargle test and isothermal molecular biology test method (Ender MASS)

2. Linking of all results with digital survey on occurrence of symptoms and risk constellations => daily updated Corona bulletin

3. Adapting the frequency of testing to the pandemic situation.

4. General mask obligation

5. Technical and organisational protective measures

6. Verification and, if necessary, confirmation of positive findings in the existing regional test centres by means of RT-PCR smear

7. Planned support to health authorities in tracing through digital preparation of information for contact tracing

8. Detect and isolate asymptomatic cases, indicate and inform contacts in consultation with local doctors, while also reporting them to the FOPH. This can save time on crucial days and increase the chance of breaking infection chains at an early stage.

9. Holistic concept of a complex intervention: technical, organisational and personal measures that have proven to be effective in the course of the pandemic (e.g. structured information campaign for employees and guests) in order to break infection chains at an early stage.

10. Individualised digital feedback to tested persons (risk assessment, data-based recommendation)

Ongoing project: Weisse Arena

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Safe Mountain Weisse Arena

Through the comprehensive protection concept Safe Mountain, safe winter sports are made possible in the skiing area Weisse Arena (Flims, Laax, Falera) despite the pandemic. The combination of balanced testing strategies, protective measures, contact tracing and application of isolation / quarantine ensures the most effective and at the same time efficient protection for employees and guests in tourist areas despite the pandemic - without a complete lockdown.  

Testing and digital survey

The employees of the Weisse Arena Group are tested up to daily according to a hazard and risk key by means of a gargle PCR test and isothermal molecular biological test procedures (enderMASS) and complete the questionnaire for the digitally supported control of the Safe Mountain concept. Based on the current risk situation, the optimal test frequency is determined individually from not at all to daily. The implementation of the concept is scientifically accompanied by the B-FAST research project.

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Which test procedure is used?

For the regular screening of people at risk from the general population or employees who have no symptoms, a method is needed that is as precise as possible but does not require any of the scarce resources of classic PCR testing with nasopharyngeal swabs for hospitalised patients, for example. The first applications in the field now show that the widely used rapid antigen tests are not precise enough. 
 
In late summer, the working group from the B-FAST project headed by Prof. Fischer, the laboratory of Prof. Dr. Risch in Vaduz/Buchs and the laboratory of Swissanalysis AG Tägerwilen, together with manufacturers of molecular biological assays, including ender diagnostics AG Bern, investigated which procedures offered a solution. Together with the laboratory automation manufacturer Hamiliton Bonaduz AG from Domat/Emsch, we have established a molecular biological procedure based on the CE-certified assay enderMASS, in which saliva samples diluted in mouthwash or gargle water are examined using a 1:4 pooling procedure. Currently, further procedures are being established in the Dr. Risch laboratory with alternative manufacturers of non-PCR resource-consuming assays for scaling.
 
The advantage of the method is the very short turnaround time of less than 6 hours for negative samples. The sensitivity naturally does not reach that of a PCR analysis, but it is still a factor of 10 to 100 higher than that of the best antigen tests available on the market. This provides a cheaper process compared to antigen and PCR testing, offering a method for early detection of infected and virus-spreading individuals in the general population or in workers without signs of disease. 
 
In addition, a questionnaire application from the ETH Zurich spin-off HealthVision is used, which relates the test results to the statements made by those tested about their own risk, risk to others, risk status and general pandemic situation. In this way, the test frequencies can be adjusted regularly and target group-specifically with repeated testing of the situation in order to achieve maximum early detection efficiency in the most resource-saving way possible. As part of the B-FAST research project of the German Network of University Medicine (NUM) on Covid-19, its use in practice and implementation in two regions, the Kinzigtal in Germany and the Flims Laax Falera region, is being scientifically monitored.

Project partner