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Anger in Italy as Monday’s reopening of ski slopes cancelled

Italy's government on Sunday night blocked ski resorts from reopening, the day before skiing was due to be allowed for the first time this winter season due to coronavirus restrictions.

Anger in Italy as Monday's reopening of ski slopes cancelled
Italy's ski slopes had been poised to reopen for the first time this season on Monday. Photo: AFP
At around 7pm on Sunday evening, the health ministry announced the measure prolonging the ban on recreational skiing at resorts until March 5th.
 
 
Resorts had hoped to reopen before Christmas, then after New Year, and then on February 15.
 
But in the first public act of Mario Draghi's new government, sworn in on Saturday, this has now been delayed.
 
The change reportedly came after new data from the country's top health agency, ISS, showed that the British variant of the coronavirus now represents, on average, 17.8 percent of new infections in Italy.
 
“Concern about the spread of this and other variants of SARS-CoV-2 has led to similar measures being taken in France and Germany,” the ministry said.
 
The about-turn was criticised by business owners, employees and local politicians, who described it as “bewildering” and “inconceivable”.
 
“It's a disaster. For a week now, we have been readying the slopes for the opening and preparing the health protocol,” said Denis Trabucchi, a 35-year-old ski instructor.
 
“This last-minute announcement is unacceptable.”
 
Trabucchi is one of around 3,000 instructors in Italy's northern Lombardy region who have been on furlough since March 8th, when the ski slopes closed under last year's coronavirus lockdown.
 
Photo: AFP
 
“A closure communicated at 7pm on the eve of the opening, planned for weeks, after months of work on protocols, hiring, preparation, is sincerely inconceivable,” said the president of the Valle d'Aosta Region, Erik Lavevas.
 
“While understanding the health reasons, the procedure is not genuinely explainable.”
 

President of Lombardy Attilio Fontana said it was “a last-minute decision that deals a further serious blow to a sector that was painfully restarting.” 

“Once again, it shows that the system of 'week by week' decisions is devastating for both operators and citizens,” he said.

READ ALSO: Where are Italy's local lockdowns?

Some regions reportedly plan to issue local ordinances allowing ski slopes to go ahead with the reopenings.
 
The plan for reopening had been met with great relief in Italy's northern regions, where just four days ago authorities said ski resorts would be allowed to reopen, following favourable advice from the expert panel advising on the Covid-19 pandemic.
 
After weeks of coronavirus-related closures, it marked the first time in the current season that skiing would be allowed.
 
Many towns in Alpine and other areas in Italy rely heavily on ski tourism.
 
In Lombardy, the region hardest hit by the pandemic, ski operators had to limit the daily number of skiers to no more than 30 percent of the hourly capacity of cable cars and ski-lifts.
 
Other regions, too, had been allowed to reopen their slopes on Monday as long as they were considered “yellow” areas, signifying a lower risk of virus infections.
 
The health ministry said it would begin compensating ski lift operators for the continued closures as soon as possible.

Member comments

  1. How absolutely awful to cancel the opening of the ski lifts just hours before they were told they could. Not a good start with PM Draghi, that’s for sure.

  2. I really feel for the work these ski areas and all the other people that live of the tourists coming have put, to be told last minute they cannot open…

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COVID-19 RULES

Is Italy’s government planning to scrap all Covid measures?

The new Italian government has announced the end of some remaining Covid health measures. Here's a look at what will - and won't - change.

Is Italy’s government planning to scrap all Covid measures?

Few Covid-related restrictions remain in Italy today, six months after the nationwide ‘state of emergency’ ended.

The previous government had kept only a handful of precautionary measures in place – which the new government, led by Giorgia Meloni, must now decide whether or not to keep.

The cabinet is holding a meeting on Monday and will issue a decree this week detailing any changes to the health measures.

Many expect the government to scrap all measures entirely by the end of the year, after Meloni and her party criticised the way Mario Draghi’s administration handled the pandemic throughout its tenure. 

Meloni clearly stated in her first address to parliament last Tuesday that “we will not replicate the model of the previous government” when it comes to managing Covid.

READ ALSO: Five key points from Meloni’s first speech as new Italian PM

While she acknowledged that Italy could be hit by another Covid wave, or another pandemic, she did not say how her government would deal with it.

Meanwhile, new health minister Orazio Schillaci issued a statement on Friday confirming the end of several existing measures, saying he “considers it appropriate to initiate a progressive return to normality in activities and behaviour”.

Workplace ban for unvaccinated medical staff

Schillaci confirmed that the ministry will allow doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to return to work after being suspended because they refuse to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

Those who refuse vaccination will be “reintegrated” into the workforce before the rule expires at the end of this year, as part of what the minister called a “gradual return to normality”.

They will be allowed to return “in light of the worrying shortage of medical and health personnel” and “considering the trend of Covid infections”, the statement said.

Fines issued to healthcare staff aged over 50 who refused vaccination would also be cancelled, it added.

There were some 1,579 doctors and dentists refusing vaccination at the end of October, representing 0.3 percent of all those registered with Italy’s National Federation of the Orders of Physicians, Surgeons and Dentists (Fnomceo) 

Daily Covid data reports

Schillaci also confirmed in the statement that the health ministry will no longer release daily updates on Covid-19 contagion rates, hospital cases and deaths, saying this would be replaced by a weekly update.

It said it would however make the data available at any time to relevant authorities.

Mask requirement in hospitals to stay?

The requirement to wear face masks in hospitals, care homes and other healthcare facilities expires on Monday, October 31st.

At a meeting on the same day the government is expected to decide whether to extend the measure.

READ ALSO: What can we expect from Italy’s new government?

While the government had looked at scrapping the requirement, it reportedly changed stance at the last minute on Monday after facing heavy criticism from health experts.

Media reports published while the meeting was in progress on Monday said government sources had indicated the measure would in fact be extended.

Confirmation is expected to come later on Monday.

Italy’s face mask rules in care homes and healthcare facilities are up for renewal. Photo by Thierry ZOCCOLAN / AFP

‘Green pass’ health certificate

There is no indication that the new government plans to bring back any requirements to show a ‘green pass’: the digital certificate proving vaccination against or recent recovery from Covid, or a negative test result.

The pass is currently only required for entry to healthcare facilities and care homes, and this is expected to remain the case.

‘Dismantling the measures’

Some of the confirmed changes were strongly criticised by Italy’s most prominent healthcare experts.

Head of the Gimbe association for evidence-based medicine, Nino Cartabellotta, said the focus on cancelling fines for unvaccinated healthcare workers was “irrelevant from a health point of view .. but unscientific and highly diseducative”.

He told news agency Ansa it was “absolutely legitimate” for a new government to discontinue the previous administration’s measures, but that this “must also be used to improve everything that the previous government was unable to do”.

The government should prioritise “more analytical collection of data on hospitalised patients, investments in ventilation systems for enclosed rooms … accelerating coverage with vaccine boosters,” he said.

However, the plan at the moment appeared to be “a mere dismantling of the measures in place,” he said, “in the illusory attempt to consign the pandemic to oblivion, ignoring the recommendations of the international public health authorities”.

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