Italy keeps ski slopes shut after discovery of COVID-19 variant

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Things are going downhill for skiing in 2021.

Due to the recent discovery of a coronavirus variant in the country, officials in Italy have decided to postpone the opening of ski slopes. This news reportedly came as several ski lift operators and resort owners were preparing to reopen for winter tourism.

Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza issued an ordinance banning amateur skiing in the country until at least March 5th, AP News reports. According to the report, this decision was made after it was discovered that 17.8% of people recently infected with the coronavirus in the country were carrying a new strain only recently discovered in Britain.

Skiing is popular in Italy and normally plays a significant role in the country’s winter tourism. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, resorts have had to keep slopes closed.

Resort operators were reportedly hopeful that they could soon open and potentially salvage what’s left of the season. They’ve reportedly already suffered significant losses due to being closed during normally busy parts of the season, including the recent holiday season.

Members of the ski industry complained that they have invested heavily in preparing slopes and lifts only to have the government deny them permission to open. They say the latest decision was made at the last minute, meaning the slopes were preparing to open when the decision was made.

According to AP News, Premier Mario Draghi promised to compensate the industry for its economic losses.

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A ski slope at Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.

REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

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Italian police officers ski on the slope, as the government signed a last-minute order to keep ski resorts closed in Cortina d’Ampezzo.

REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

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A woman checks crowd sizes on the slopes at the ski resort of Passo Tonale in the Dolomites in Passo del Tonale, Italy.

REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

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Italy has been hard hit by the pandemic and the government has enforced strict regulations in an attempt to prevent the spread of the virus. The country’s tourism industry has reportedly suffered, especially as the government has placed restrictions on travel from abroad.

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