PM Conte tells Italians to avoid skiing at Christmas due to COVID-19 risk

FILE PHOTO: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte adjusts a protective face mask as he speaks during a news conference on government's new anti-COVID-19 measures, as the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, at Chigi Palace in Rome, Italy October 25, 2020. REUTERS/Yara Nardi/File Photo reuters_tickers
This content was published on November 24, 2020 - 11:23

ROME (Reuters) - Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has warned Italians not to ski during the Christmas holidays to help curb a second wave of the new coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 50,000.

Italy's ski resorts earn annual revenues of about 11 billion euros (9.79 billion pounds), one third of which comes from the days Italians usually spend on the Alps and Dolomites at Christmas and New Year.

But Conte said this year it would not be possible "to allow holidays on the snow. We cannot afford it".

Italy reported 630 COVID 19-related deaths on Monday, becoming the sixth nation in the world to surpass 50,000 deaths, and the second in Europe after Britain.

Many Italian regions are under partial lockdown to try to slow the outbreak, with restrictions due to stay in place until at least Dec. 3.

Shopkeepers, hotels and restaurateurs are pinning their hopes on a revival of business around the normally busy Christmas period to revive their battered fortunes.

Most of the ski resorts are concentrated in the northern regions of Piemonte, Valle d’Aosta, Lombardy, Trentino, Alto Adige. In a desperate effort to keep their business alive after Dec. 3, the regions have set a protocol which introduces restrictions on the number of passengers carried by ski lifts and on the daily ski passes.

"The protocol is one thing, but everything that revolves around holidays on the snow is uncontrollable," Conte said late on Monday in an interview with La7 television.

Valeria Ghezzi, president of the Italian lift association, told Reuters: "Conte should remember that an economy that supports entire mountain communities is at risk."

Italy is part of the European Alps along with Austria, France, Slovenia and Switzerland. It hosts, together with France, the highest summit of the Alps, Mont Blanc, and shares the Matterhorn with Switzerland.

Conte said that he has held talks with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel over a "common European protocol".

($1 = 0.8422 euros)

(Reporting by Giselda Vagnoni, Editing by William Maclean)

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