CORONAVIRUS ADVICE FOR SKIERS
25th February 2020 | Jane Peel, Chief Reporter
Last modified on March 5th, 2020
Britons who have been to northern Italy – the area with most of the country’s ski resorts – have been warned to keep themselves isolated if they show any symptoms of the virus. Some schools where pupils have returned from ski trips are closed, and now the virus has spread to other alpine countries.
The new advice has been issued by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
The British Health Secretary Matt Hancock says people with flu-like symptoms who have been anywhere north of Pisa should stay at home for 14 days, avoid contact with others and get in touch with the NHS on 111.
The area north of Pisa covers the whole of the Italian Alps and the Dolomites.
It also includes the busy ski airports of Milan, Turin, Verona and Venice Marco Polo.
It is important to stress that there have been no cases of coronavirus reported in any of Italy’s ski resorts.
However, several schools in England and Northern Ireland have told pupils and staff who have just returned from ski trips in northern Italy to stay at home as a precaution.
A small number of schools has closed completely.
Last week was the main winter half-term school break in Britain and the busiest week of the ski season in the Alps.
The English Alpine Championships, organised by Snowsport England, took place in Bormio in the Lombardy region last week, attracting hundreds of racers.
Snowsport England has published a statement on its website for skiers and spectators who attended the Championships.
It says it is monitoring UK government advice on those recently returned from northern Italy.
“To date, we have no reports of any symptoms amongst those who attended and/or participated in the English Alpine Championships,” the statement says.
“Whilst we reiterate that no cases have been identified amongst those who travelled to Bormio, the health of individual competitors, volunteers and families are obviously of the highest priority.”
The outbreak is now affecting other alpine nations.
In Innsbruck, the capital of the Austrian Tirol and the gateway to hundreds of ski resorts, a hotel was briefly put in lockdown after an Italian who works there was diagnosed with the virus.
And in Switzerland, a man from Ticino on the border with Italy, is in isolation after being infected in Milan earlier this month.
PlanetSKI has been told that concerned skiers and snowboarders have been getting in touch with their travel companies for advice about their planned holidays.
It is not clear what the position would be should they wish to cancel since the Foreign Office is not advising against travel to the country.
One ski company told us the situation was becoming an issue with new bookings drying up and existing clients panicking.
“I have been told that some skiers are contacting their tour operators if they are heading to Italy and some have been asking whether they can cancel,” says the PlanetSKI editor, James Cove, who is currently based in the Aosta Valley in the north of Italy.
“I stress that I have not been told of people cancelling their holidays. Rather they are showing natural concern.
“I am currently skiing in northern Italy with members of my family and will continue to do so until practical and informed advice tells me otherwise.”
James has sent this latest report on the situation from Cervinia in the Aosta Valley:
We asked two of the major ski tour operators, Crystal Ski and Inghams, which offer ski holidays to several resorts in northern Italy, whether they are issuing any guidance to clients.
Crystal Ski has responded with this statement:
We are aware of the reports of Coronavirus in destinations around the world, including some regions in Italy and the restrictions that have been introduced by their local authorities.
We can confirm that none of our resorts are in any of the towns which are currently isolated and our holidays are operating as normal.
Our usual terms and conditions for amendments and cancellations apply, however should the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice change to advise against travel to the country you visiting or due to visit, we will contact you to discuss your options, including an amendment or full refund.
Hotelplan, which has the Inghams, Esprit Ski and Ski Total brands, has given us this statement:
We are aware of confirmed cases of Coronavirus in certain regions of Italy. While travel has been restricted within a very limited number of small towns to the south east of Milan, and one town in the Veneto region, these are isolated cases and well away from the Alpine areas in which we operate.
We are following the advice issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and local health authorities and are monitoring the situation closely.
We are working closely with our overseas team to ensure all staff have been briefed and are on alert. We have issued guidance posters, provided by the NHS in our accommodation and we urge all guests to follow WHO recommendations by maintaining good hand and respiratory hygiene and to seek early medical intervention in the event of fever, cough or difficulty breathing.
If there are any changes to our guests’ travel arrangements we will be in contact with them directly.
The Italian outbreak has led to the cancellation of the Europa Cup Para alpine ski races, due to take place in Sella Nevea in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region of north east Italy between 2nd and 5th March.
“It is disappointing that the Europa Cup will be cancelled, but Italy is facing a public health issue with spread of coronavirus,” said the Head of World Para Snow Sports, Dimitrije Lazarovski.
“The health of all the athletes is our biggest priority.”
However, the International Ski Federation (FIS) has confirmed that the women’s Super G and Alpine Combined World Cup races in La Thuile, Italy, scheduled for this weekend, will go ahead, but with limits on spectators.
“Due to the outbreak and continuing spread of situation with the Novel Coronavirus in Northern Italy the majority of Italian Regional Authorities have taken the decision to cancel and postpone public including sports events, however this does not apply to the Aosta region, in which La Thuile is located where there are no recorded cases,” a FIS statement says.
“Consequently the Italian Winter Sports Federation (FISI) and its La Thuile Local Organising Committee in agreement with FIS can confirm that the women’s Audi FIS World Cup races scheduled for 29th February- 1st March 2020 will go ahead as scheduled.
“As a precaution in the interests of public health, the races this weekend will be staged with limited spectators.
“The Italian athletes and teams are under permanent control and supervision of the FISI medical staff in order to guarantee their welfare.”
On Wednesday, it was reported that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Italy has increased by 45% in 24 hours, with 322 infected and 11 dead.
Eleven small Italian towns in Lombardy and Veneto – none of them ski areas – are in lockdown.
In addition, a series of extraordinary measures to protect the public has been introduced over a wider area.
The regions of Lombardy, Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Piemonte and Emilia Romagna have implemented measures to suspend public or private events, and close schools, colleges, museums and cultural institutions for seven days.
Some of the most popular ski areas in these regions include:
- Livigno, Pontedilegno-Tonale, Bormio – Lombardy
- Arabba, Cortina d’Ampezzo – Veneto
- Sestriere, Sauze d’Oulx, Bardonecchia, Alagna (part of the Monterosa ski area which also includes Gressoney & Champoluc) – Piemonte
The symptoms of Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, are similar to illnesses such as a cold or flu.
They include a cough, a high temperature and shortness of breath.
Advice for travellers on reducing the risk of exposure is available on the Travel Health Pro Website.