CORONAVIRUS IMPACT ON SKIING
2nd March 2020 | James Cove, Aosta Valley, Italy
Last modified on March 25th, 2020
PlanetSKI is currently in Northern Italy scene of the worst outbreak Europe. We report on the impact of the Coronavirus in Italy & what it is like to be near the worst affected areas in Europe.
Italy is the country with the highest number of people with the virus in Europe and the highest death toll.
400 new cases were reported on Tuesday evening.
The total number of people in Italy confirmed to have contracted the virus is 2,502.
Of these 160 have recovered and 79 have died.
More than 25,800 people have now been tested in Italy for the Covid-19 virus, with around 10 percent of tests coming back positive.
Some 1,000 people found to be infected have only mild symptoms and are in self-isolation at home.
Most of the victims elderly, many over the age of 80.
Others had pre-existing conditions.
On Monday health officials in Italy said they are “optimistic” that the measures currently taken would be enough to contain the outbreak.
They said this week will be “decisive” in stopping the spreading of the virus.
“At the end of the week we will understand if and how much the containment measures put in place have slowed the epidemic,” said the head of Italy’s National Health Institute, Silvio Brusaferro.
“We expect positive results, I am optimistic. We ask all citizens for collaboration. Their help is important for breaking the chain of infections.”
The recent confirmed cases are likely to be people who have been infected before current measures were introduced.
It is thought the virus could have been circulating for weeks undetected in Italy.
Italy along with South Korea, Iran and Japan remains the countries of greatest concern outside China.
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On the surface everything is normal in the city of Aosta and its surrounding ski resorts where I am.
The tiny Alpine region of Valle d’Aosta, the smallest and least populated in Italy, is currently untouched by the virus with no reported cases.
The main areas of infection are some distance away from the mountains in the Aosta Valley above Turin.
50,000 people have been confined in the 10 towns in Lombardy and one in Veneto.
Checks are taking place.
Coronavirus, Covid-19, is on everyone’s mind in this part of the Italian Alps.
The lifts are running, people are skiing and the city of Aosta remains busy.
However, this week in the resort of Pila above Aosta the SIGB Ski Tests were due to take place.
The tests see the UK snowsports industry gather to test next winter’s ski products.
They have not gone ahead as the brands and retailers have pulled out.
I understand it was not so much the individuals concerned but rather the HR departments of the bigger companies who imposed travel bans, either to Italy or across the world.
On Sunday the organisers went for a ski in the area before heading home.
A last-minute ski test event is now being held in Glenshee in Scotland instead, from where PlanetSKI’s Rod Frazer reports:
There have been holiday cancellations as people from the UK have decided not to come to this part of the Italian Alps.
The Aosta Valley has the ski resorts of Cervinia, Courmayeur, La Thuile, Pila, Gressoney, Champoluc and Alagna.
Plus a number of smaller ones such as Torgnon and Crevacol.
I am told the slopes have been much less busy than they would normally be at this time of year.
Last week was the main Italian half-term break and many schools cancelled ski trips.
On Monday it was confirmed that a school in south-west London has been closed after a member of staff tested positive for Covid-19.
The teacher, from Wimbledon College boys’ school, had recently returned from Italy.
Four schools in England have shut completely for a “deep clean” after pupils came back from skiing trips.
Two schools in Northern Ireland have cancelled ski trips to Italy this week.
Sacred Heart Grammar in Newry and Dunclug College in Ballymena were both due to have trips in Folgaria in Trentino.
The ski area has been issuing re-assuring messages.
“The Skiarea Folgaria and Lavarone would like to underline the positive effects of skiing, as well as other activities in the snow, on people’s well-being as it takes place outdoors, at altitude and individually,” it said in a statement.
It goes on to point out that there are no cases in Trentino and presents some other facts:
• Over 100 km of slopes, which is certainly an added value to the non-spread of viruses
• Accommodations on the slopes are equipped with large outdoor spaces
• The perfectly snow-covered slopes can be reached by completely open ski lifts (no cable lifts)
• Snowshoeing areas with the possibility of moving in large open spaces
• Health and well-being also making excursions organised with fatbikes
“To ensure maximum guest safety, all ordinances are observed and there is a constant hygiene control,” the ski area added.
“The Skiarea Alpe Cimbra will continue this long and somewhat ‘bizarre’ winter season until Easter.”
It is not just trips to Italy that people are cancelling.
New bookings for snowsports holidays across the Alps have dried up, I am told.
People are concerned and many are watching to see how the situation develops.
Turin airport is the main gateway into this part of the Alps and is outside the zone.
Flights have been cancelled but things are running smoothly.
Coach loads of people returned from their ski holiday at the weekend and passed through the airport without tests or checks.
There were warning signs at Gatwick airport for anyone feeling the symptoms, but no widespread testing.
The Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, has urged people “not to give in to panic and follow the advice of health authorities”.
Italian government ministers have stressed that Italy remains safe to visit, as most of the country remains unaffected by the virus.
The World Health Organisation says 80% of those who are infected with the virus suffer only mild symptoms such as a headache or a sore throat.
Around 5% end up in a critical condition.
That is the advice I am listening to in amongst the general hysteria of some reporting.
My biggest concern is not contracting the virus, but rather what restrictions may be put in place if others do.
If there is a significant outbreak in Aosta, that has a population of 35,000, the city will be sealed off.
If there is an outbreak in the Aosta Valley then movements will be restricted.
I am following the official advice:
-Washing hands thoroughly and often with soap and water, especially after coughing and sneezing or before eating.
-Avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth, especially with unwashed hands.
– Covering my nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.
I have taken precautions by stocking up on some foodstuffs, but the supermarkets remain well supplied.
There is no panic buying.
People here are approaching it with pragmatism rather than panic.
There has been a sharp reduction in flights to airports serving the Alps.
EasyJet, in a true PR phrase, said there has been a ‘significant softening’ of demand and load factors into and out of its northern Italian bases.
“We will be making decisions to cancel some flights, particularly those into and out of Italy, while continuing to monitor the situation and adapting our flying programme to support demand,” the airline said.
German airline Lufthansa said it’s adjusting its flights to northern Italy.
Austrian Airlines is cutting its flights to Italy by 40% in March and April,.
Brussels Airlines is cutting flights to Rome, Milan, Venice and Bologna by 30% until 14th March.
Eurowings said it was reducing its flights to some Italian destinations until 8th March.
EVENTS & ACTIVITIES IN ITALY
The final FIS World Cup races of the season are due to take place in Cortina in the Dolomites from March 18th to 22nd.
An announcement will be made on Friday about whether they will go ahead,
One FIS official has been quoted as saying they might be held behind closed doors with no spectators, others speculate they will be called off altogether.
The FIS Council held an emergency telephone conference meeting on Monday today to discuss the FIS World Cup.
“The health and welfare of the athletes and all other participants, as well as the general public are in the forefront and the priority of FIS,” it said in a statement.
The FIS World Cup races in La Thuile in the Aosta Valley went ahead last weekend, but with a sharp drop in the number of spectators.
The latter races ended up being called off, but that was due to the weather and heavy snow falling.
A question mark hangs over England’s 6-Nations rugby match against Italy in Rome on March 14th.
No decision has been taken but the authorities say they are monitoring the situation carefully and will act on advice.
The Rugby authorities met in Paris on Monday and said “the Italy vs England Senior Men’s match in Rome is planned to go ahead as scheduled.”
The Duomo Cathedral in Milan has re-opened after it closed due to fears about coronavirus.
It said in a statement on its website that the cathedral would be open every day from 9am to 6pm.
It said access would be “programmed” to “avoid crowds of people”.
And the Pope has been tested for the virus and the results were negative.
Do check back as PlanetSKI updates this article with the latest facts and advice from the Italian Alps.