BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany wants the Alps countries to close ski resorts to help fight the coronavirus pandemic, but reaching a deal with neighboring Austria has proved difficult, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday.
“Ski season is near. We will try to coordinate in Europe whether we can close all ski resorts, “Merkel told parliament, adding that this may not be possible given the resistance from Austria, but Germany will try again.
In the first wave of the coronavirus earlier in the year, many Germans were infected at the ski resort of Ischgl in Austria. Germany last month issued travel warnings for popular ski areas in Austria, Italy and Switzerland.
France, Italy, Austria and Germany have all ordered even high-altitude lifts that may operate in early winter to remain closed for now in the hope that all resorts can benefit from peak season, if and when infection rates slow down.
Austria’s national lockdown will be lifted on December 7, but it is unclear what that means for the ski sector. Austria is lukewarm about general European rule.
Germany is Austria’s largest source of foreign tourists.
Earlier this week, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte warned people not to ski during the Christmas holidays to help curb the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
He also asked other European countries to agree general rules for the sector to prevent cases from being imported from abroad if Italy closes its slopes.
France says ski slopes should remain off limits until 2021.
If the European Union forces ski areas to remain closed, that would mean losses of up to 2 billion euros, which the European Union will have to bear, Austrian Finance Minister Gernot Bluemel said earlier this week.
Switzerland, which is not part of the EU, allows almost normal operation at its ski resorts.
Merkel agreed with the leaders of Germany’s 16 states late on Wednesday to extend and tighten the coronavirus lockdown until December 20, but relaxed rules over the Christmas holidays to allow family and friends to celebrate together.
(Story corrects nationality of Gernot Bluemel in paragraph 10 Austria, not Italy)
Reporting by Thomas Seytal and Emma Thomasson; Edited by Nick Macfie
to request modification Contact us at Here or [email protected]