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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

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

As the infection rate rises sharply across the country, Italian virologists are calling for concerts and festivals to be rescheduled.

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

Italy has seen a large increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days, so much so that a number of virologists across the country are now urging the government to postpone major live events in a bid to curb infections. 

According to a new report by Italy’s independent health watchdog, the Gimbe Foundation, 595,349 new cases were recorded in the week from June 29th to July 5th; a worrying 55 percent increase on the previous week. 

In the same time span, the country also registered a 32.8 percent rise in the number of hospitalised patients, which went from 6,035 to 8,003.  

The latest Covid wave, which is being driven by the highly contagious Omicron 5 variant, is a “real cause for concern”, especially in terms of a “potential patient overload”, said Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe Foundation. 

As Italian cities prepare to host a packed calendar of concerts and festivals this summer, health experts are questioning whether such events should actually take place given the high risk of transmission associated with mass gatherings.

READ ALSO: What tourists in Italy need to know if they get Covid-19

“Rescheduling these types of events would be the best thing to do right now,” said Massimo Ciccozzi, Director of Epidemiology at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome. 

The summer wave is expected to peak in mid-July but, Ciccozzi warns, the upcoming live events might “delay [the peak] until the end of July or even beyond” and extend the infection curve.

Antonello Maruotti, Professor of Statistics at LUMSA University of Rome, recently shared Ciccozzi’s concerns, saying that live events as big as Maneskin’s scheduled Rome concert are “definitely not a good idea”. 

The Italian rock band are slated to perform at the Circus Maximus on Saturday, July 9th but the expected turnout – over 70,000 fans are set to attend the event – has raised objections from an array of Italian doctors, with some warning that the concert might cause as many as 20,000 new cases.

If it were to materialise, the prospected scenario would significantly aggravate Lazio’s present medical predicament as there are currently over 186,000 Covid cases in the region (nearly 800 patients are receiving treatment in local hospitals). 

Italian rock band Maneskin performing in Turin

Italian rock band Maneskin are expected to perform at the Circus Maximus in Rome on Saturday, July 9th. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

But, despite pleas to postpone the event, it is likely that Maneskin’s concert will take place as scheduled.

Alessandro Onorato, Rome’s Tourism Councillor, said that rescheduling is “out of question” and that “all recommendations from the local medical authorities will be adopted” with the help of the event’s organisers and staff on the ground.

At the time of writing, there is also no indication that the Italian government will consider postponing other major live events scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, though the situation is evolving rapidly and a U-turn on previous dispositions can’t be ruled out.

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

On this note, it is worth mentioning that Italy has now scrapped all of its former Covid measures except the requirement to wear FFP2 face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings.

The use of face coverings is, however, still recommended in all crowded areas, including outdoors – exactly the point that leading Italian doctors are stressing in the hope that live events will not lead to large-scale infection.

Antonio Magi, President of Rome’s OMCEO (College of Doctors, Surgeons and Dentists), said: “Our advice is to wear FFP2 masks […] in high-risk situations.”

“I hope that young people will heed our recommendations and think about the health risks that their parents or grandparents might be exposed to after the event [they attend].”

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