Germany wants Alpine countries to keep ski resorts closed to combat the coronavirus epidemic, but it is difficult to reach an agreement with neighboring Austria, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday.
“The ski season is approaching. We are trying to coordinate in Europe whether we can close all the ski areas,” Merkel told Parliament, adding that due to Austrian resistance, this is not possible, but Germany will try again.
In the first wave of the coronavirus earlier this year, many Germans became infected at the Ischgl ski resort in Austria. Germany issued warnings last month about popular ski areas in Austria, Italy and Switzerland.
France, Italy, Austria and Germany have ordered high-altitude lifts, which will continue to operate in early winter, to remain closed for the time being in the hope that all resorts can benefit during the peak season – if and when infection rates slow.
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Austria’s national lockout will be lifted on December 7, but it is not clear what this means for the ski sector. Austria has made a lukewarm statement on common European rules.
Germany is Austria’s largest source of foreign tourism.
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 epidemic.
He also called on other European countries to agree on common rules for the sector to prevent cases from being imported from abroad if Italy closes its slopes.
According to France, its ski slopes must remain within the limits by 2021.
If the European Union forces the ski areas to stay closed, it will mean a loss of up to € 2 billion (more than $ 2.38 billion) that the EU will have to cover, Austrian Finance Minister Gernot Bluemel said earlier this week.
Switzerland, which is not part of the EU, allows closer operations than usual at its ski resorts.
Merkel agreed late Wednesday with the leaders of 16 federal states in Germany to extend and tighten the lock on the coronavirus until December 20, but eases the rules for the Christmas holidays so families and friends can celebrate together.