NEW MEASURES IN ITALY TO FIGHT CORONAVIRUS
4th March 2020 | James Cove, the Aosta Valley, Italy
Last modified on March 10th, 2020
A raft of new measures has been announced as the number of cases rises. PlanetSKI reports from the Aosta Valley in the Italian Alps.
All but one region in Italy has at least one confirmed case of the virus.
The Aosta Valley is now the only region in the country without any cases.
It is home to the main ski resorts of Cervinia, Pila, La Thuile, Courmayeur, Champoluc and Gressoney.
Plus many smaller ones.
Already there have been multiple holiday cancellations and few fresh bookings.
The new measures outlined by the government on Wednesday will likely increase that trend.
I have been speaking to tour operators and those involved in the snowsports industry here in the Italian Alps.
They were worried before the new announcements were made, and will likely now be more concerned.
The measures are expected to cause more people to stay away and the ski resorts will therefore see fewer people.
However, I have also been speaking to British holidaymakers here in the Aosta Valley out on the slopes.
Though they are concerned and keeping an eye on the situation, they feel confident enough to be here in the Italian Alps on their annual skiing holiday.
They point out that there are no confirmed cases in the region and that calmness, plus a look at the facts, should be the order of the day.
And they point out that the skiing conditions at the moment are excellent.
The first direct casualty are the final FIS World Cup races of the season that are due to take place in Cortina in the Dolomites in Italy from March 18th to 22nd.
They will now be held with no spectators as all sport in Italy is now to be held behind closed doors.
The full decree from the Italian Government reads:
“Sports events and competitions of all kinds and disciplines, held in every place, both public and private, are suspended – however it is permitted to carry out the aforementioned events and competitions behind closed doors, or outdoors without the presence of the public.
“In all such cases, the associations and sports clubs, by means of their medical staff, are required to carry out the appropriate checks to contain the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus among athletes, technicians, managers and all accompanying persons who participate.”
Pila, the resort above Aosta, has numerous club and school racing events that will likely be called off.
Personally I am watching developments closely and have no immediate plans to leave the Aosta Valley.
I am stringently following all the hygiene advice and am wearing a buff over my face while skiing and at other times.
Apparently humans involuntarily touch their face with their hands 90 times a day.
So, I am keeping my PlanetSKI buff on even as I write this article.
There is, though, a much bigger picture than skiing and snowboarding.
“We have to work for the country by staying within the rules and adopting lifestyles that halt the classic paths of transmission,” said Silvio Brusaferro, the president of Italy’s Higher Health Institute on Wednesday.
The new guidelines include that people should avoid crowded places and keep ‘at least one metre’ away from anyone else at all times.
In reality this is hard, if not impossible, to follow in ski resorts.
Here was the queue at the lift ticket offices in Pila on Wednesday in the Aosta Valley as the new rules were announced.
With plenty of people out on the slopes and close to each other.
On Wednesday the government announced more measures including closing all school and colleges until mid-March.
Education Minister Lucia Azzolina said she hoped students would be able to resume classes as soon as possible.
“My commitment is to ensure that the essential public service, albeit from a distance, is provided to all our students,” she said.
Italy is now also considering closing cinemas and theatres and banning public events.
The decree also tells Italians to avoid hugging and shaking hands as much as possible.
The death toll from the coronavirus in Italy has now risen to 107.
2,706 people have tested positive and it is Europe’s worst-hit country.
According to the World Health Organisation, around 80%of people who contract the new coronavirus recover without needing special treatment.
Around one out of every six people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing.
Only around two percent of cases are fatal.
Older people and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.
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CORONAVIRUS IMPACT ON SNOWSPORTS
The final competition of the 2019/20 FIS Snowboard Slopestyle World Cup season, originally slated to take place as the Spindelruv Mlyn SnowJam in the Czech Republic from March 20-21, has been cancelled.
This is due to restrictions imposed by the Czech government over concerns regarding Coronavirus.
While the situation remains fluid, the Spindelruv Mlyn event was set to be the last competition of the 2019/20 FIS Snowboard Slopestyle World Cup season.
In light of this, it seems unlikely that a replacement venue can be found at this late stage of the season. However, an announcement will be made at a later date should a solution arise.
The final FIS World Cup races of the season are due to take place in Cortina in the Dolomites from March 18th to 22nd.
If held they will be behind closed doors with no spectators.
An announcement will be made on Friday about whether they will go ahead.
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.”
Here are the new Italian guidelines as published by The Local.
No more baci e abbracci
The famous Italian habit of kissing and hugging friends and acquaintances (and in some areas, people you’ve just met) will have to stop for the next month, the committee has decreed. Handshakes are out, too.
Keep your distance
The official advice states that people should avoid crowded places and keep “at least one metre” away from anyone else at all times.
Self-isolate if you have any symptoms
Anyone showing even mild symptoms of potential coronavirus infection is advised to stay at home.
Do not go straight to a hospital or doctor’s surgery. In Italy, you can call the government’s coronavirus hotline on 1500 for emergency advice in English, Italian or Chinese.
Over-75s should stay at home
The official advice is for all over 75s to stay at home and “avoid social contact”. Anyone over the age of 65 with health problems and people with respiratory conditions have also been advised to stay at home.
Don’t share glasses
The guidelines also warn not to drink from the same cups, glasses or bottles as anyone else “especially during sporting events”.
New restrictions on hospital visitors
This month people will no longer be allowed to accompany friends or relatives into the emergency room and there will also be more restrictions on visitors to private clinics and retirement homes.
Sporting events closed to the public
All football matches and other sporting events in Italy this month must be held behind closed doors, health chiefs said.
Civil protection authorities are also setting set up tents in front of some hospitals to make sure suspected coronavirus cases do not come into contact with other patients.
The warnings are in place for the whole of Italy for the next 30 days, though they will be re-evaluated every 15 days.
Here at PlanetSKI we will be updating this story as circumstances develop in this rapidly changing story so do check back.