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Covid-19 Situation in Ski Nations of Europe

Cases are rising in many ski areas and countries, with restrictions changing as Easter gets underway. Check out all the latest developments in our rolling and updated blog. UPDATED

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It is not looking good in many alpine regions as France and Italy go into new lockdowns and cases are rising in Austria and Germany.

Switzerland is faring slightly better but a third wave is well and truly underway in Eastern Europe.

Western Europe

Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is one of those EU leaders strongly backing a common digital pass which will show whether people have been vaccinated, tested or have antibodies.

“Those who have been vaccinated should have full freedom,” he told German newspaper Bild.

“But so should those who have just had corona, and are therefore immune. And also, all those who take a test and can prove that they have tested negative.”

Austria introduced tough new measures from Thursday 1st in the eastern states of Vienna, Lower Austria and Burgenland as we have reported:

People have been told to stay at home, except for necessary activities such as food shopping, work, exercise and helping their families.

The Tirol will not be seeing an Easter lockdown, and it is “not the plan for the time being and is ruled out by our Governor Günther Platter” said the Tirol tourist office to us in a statement.

“We are looking forward to summer with hope and optimism.”

The Tirol is introducing compulsory testing and trying to contain the situation by making testing compulsory when leaving the country.

“The testing is going really well and quickly here and we hope that the vaccinations will also go faster so that we can see changes. But with the green passport soon to be introduced we remain optimistic.”

Here on PlanetSKI we reported on the so-called ‘Green Passport’ earlier:

Austria has said it has suffered under the EU’s vaccine distribution system.

The Austrian Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, said he was happy that an additional 10 million doses are to be used to ensure fairer delivery in the next three months.

Austrian Alps in the summer

Austrian Alps in the summer. Image © PlanetSKI

France went into a lockdown on Saturday 3rd April.

On Wednesday evening President Macron addressed the nation and announced a series of stricter lockdown measures as cases surge.

The UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has said putting France on its ‘Red List’ is “something  that we will have to look at”.

At a meeting of the Commons Liaison Committee, Labour’s Yvette Cooper asked the prime minister why France was not now on the red list, saying it had up to 3,000 cases of the South African and Brazilian Covid variants.

In France an opinion poll suggests seven out of 10 people back the decision to go into the new national lockdown.

The country is facing a peak of over 5,000 people in intensive care.

The new restrictions and surge in cases is grim new for ski resorts hoping for some Spring respite.

Many are now questioning what summer in the French Alps may look like.

Some dare not think ahead to next winter given the likelihood of variants and the huge number of people in France who are sceptical of vaccines.

  • Schools will close for at least 3 weeks.
  • Lockdown measures, introduced in some areas of France in March, are being extended to other districts.
  • All non-essential shops are to close from Saturday.
  • There will be a ban on travelling more than 10km (six miles) from home without good reason.

The Health Minister, Olivier Véran, says the peak of the epidemic is 7 to 10 days away.

There is a crackdown on gatherings of more than six people outdoors with police imposing fines.

The rule does not apply to authorised groups such as funerals or professional meetings.

Doctors in Paris have warned they may soon have to choose between emergency patients, as bed space runs out.

France started vaccinating over 70s last Saturday.

France, the most popular nation for British skiers and snowboarders, is one of the most vaccine-sceptical nations in the world.

The BBC’s specialist disinformation reporter, Marianna Spring, has been looking into the vaccine misinformation battle that is currently raging in France.

See here for the full article.

And here for an earlier article on PlanetSKI looking at holidays abroad this summer:

President Macron said that April would prove crucial.

“We will lose control if we do not move now,” he said.

The 43-year-old President said it was a race between vaccinations on the one hand and attempting to control the spread of the virus on the other.

Here is one analysis from the BBC’s Hugh Schofield:

“More than at previous turning-points, the politics of Covid in France is becoming interesting.

“For one thing, President Macron has opened up a much clearer target now for the opposition – they can argue that his decision back in January to overrule the scientists and not launch a third lockdown was a blunder.

“He was warned then that the so-called British variant would sweep all before it by the end of March – and lo and behold that is what has happened.

“And now he is eating his hat.

“For his enemies, it is the result of Macron’s hubris – the insufferable self-belief that makes him think he knows better than the doctors.

“The other reason it’s getting sensitive is the UK.

“Everyone in France can see how much better the vaccination programme is going there.

“If the UK starts resuming ordinary life while France is still struggling, tough questions will be asked of the president.

“And elections are only a year away.”

Chamonix in the summer

Chamonix in the summer. Image © PlanetSKI

In Germany the President, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, addressed the nation on television on Saturday  evening.

He called on people in Germany to pull together, rather than simply criticise others.

He conceded that mistakes had been made when it comes to “testing, vaccination, digital solutions”.

He talked about a “crisis of trust” in the state.

But he also said “Let us all pull together” and called on people to not just be outraged “at other people or those at the top”.

The German president  had the vaccine a few days ago – he received the AstraZeneca vaccine on Thursday.

President Steinmeier said he trusts “all – and I stress all – the vaccines that have been authorised in Germany”.

German has now classified France as a high-risk zone.

Anyone flying in from abroad to Germany will require a negative test before departure from Sunday.

A survey suggests only 25% of people have faith in the government’s vaccination strategy.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca has been limited to over-60s in Germany and 40% of those surveyed said they did not want it.

Vaccination centres are managing 268,000 inoculations a day, but officials say that is well below capacity.

The Chancellor, Angela Merkel,  has urged regions to stick to lockdown measures agreed in talks last week.

Areas with more than 100 new infections per 100,000 people are supposed to impose curfews.

But a lockdown over Easter, which Mrs Merkel had wanted, is not now happening.

The national rate is now 134 per 100,000 people over a 7-day period.

The leaders of Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg, the country’s worst hit states, have called for tougher restrictions, saying the situation was worse than initially thought.

The city of Hamburg is to introduce a night curfew on Friday.

In Italy shops, restaurants and schools are once again closed in more than half of Italy, including the main mountain regions and ski resorts.

People are required to stay at home except for work, health or other essential reasons.

For three days over Easter (3-5 April), there is a total shutdown across the whole country.

Every region in the country is in the “red zone”.

Italy has around 20,000 new cases every day.

All non-essential shops are closed and cafes and restaurants are running a takeaway-only service.

Most travel is also banned, although people are allowed to invite two guests who are from the same household over for an Easter meal.

Churches remain open but worshippers are being encouraged to attend services close to their homes.

St Peter’s Square will be empty when Pope Francis delivers his Easter message on Sunday.

The government said an extra 70,000 police officers were being deployed to enforce the rules.

“This is not the time to lower our guard, and to let go of that sense of responsibility shown so far,” said Interior Minister, Luciana Lamorgese,

The  government is to introduce a mandatory five-day quarantine for EU travellers and it will remain in place until April 6th.

People arriving from the UK and other non-member states will have to spend 14 days in isolation.

The Health Minister, Roberto Speranza,  will sign a new ordinance requiring anyone entering Italy from another member of the EU &  Schengen Zone to get tested for coronavirus before departure and observe quarantine regardless of the results.

They will then be tested again after five days in isolation.

The new rules will apply to foreign visitors and returning residents alike, with the only exceptions for reasons of “proven necessity and urgency”.

108-year old Natalina Ferraro has become Italy’s oldest person to be vaccinated.

She survived Spanish flu and sent “big kisses to all” on receiving the jab in the southern city of Basilicata.

The Prime Minister, Mario Draghi says nearly half a million vaccinations is not far off.

He says Italians need to get out of “this situation of inactivity”.

The north-western province of Liguria has barred Italians from visiting their second homes or boats over the Easter holiday to limit the spread of infection.

Aosta Valley, Italy

Aosta Valley, Italy. Image © PlanetSKI

In Spain the government has passed a new nationwide law making it compulsory to wear face masks outdoors – including on the ski slopes.

Fines for not wearing a mask start at €100.

Some ski resorts in the Pyrenees remain open as does Sierra Nevada in Granada.

Adults with medical conditions are exempt.

Spain is seeing a new rise in cases with the average incidence up to 152 cases per 100,000 over the last two weeks.

Madrid and Navarre in the north are among the areas seeing a spike.

Holidays to Spain for British travellers are still banned until at least mid-May.

Spain has imposed restrictions on people arriving from France.

Anyone crossing the land border from France into Spain will need to present a negative test that has been taken in the past 72-hours.

Spain is to allow UK travellers into the country for essential reasons from 30th March.

The country lifted the travel ban which had been imposed after the emergence of the UK variant.

It applies only for essential travel such as education or health reasons and requires a negative PCR test.

It is unlikely to have a major effect on passenger traffic due to the current ban on overseas travel from the UK.

The UK variant of Covid-19 is now widespread in Spain, the Health Ministry said, and similar travel bans remain in place for South Africa and Brazil.

Spain says only half of its population aged over 80-years-old has so far been vaccinated.

It is set to fail an EU target to vaccinate 80% of over-80s by the end of March, according to El País newspaper.

It estimates that most areas have inoculated 60-70% of over-80s while a third have had the second dose too.

In Switzerland the health authorities say they plan to roll out a certificate for people who have been vaccinated against coronavirus.

Austria is planning one for next month and other alpine nations are looking at the issue.

The Federal Office for Public Health, said it would coordinate its certificate with the European Union and that it would be standardised, safe and compatible with other countries.

“We aim for summer and it is a challenging task but realistic aim,” said the director of the Federal Office for Public Health, Anne Lévy.

See here for more:

Switzerland in the summer

Switzerland in the summer. Image © PlanetSKI

Eastern Europe

The first wave of the coronavirus pandemic last year seemed to leave Eastern Europe relatively unscathed.

But in recent months this has changed with several countries now reporting record infections and deaths.

Governments are scrambling to vaccinate their populations but still the figures are rising in many areas.

In Bulgaria the resort of Bansko is open until April 11th in compliance with all anti-epidemic measures.

See here for the full details

Borovets and Pamporova also remain open.

Throughout March, Bulgaria recorded an average of about 4,000 new Covid cases a day, leading the government to impose a lockdown.

Restaurants, shopping centres, schools and kindergartens have all been closed.

In total the country has recorded about 352,000 infections and 13,500 deaths.

In the  Czech Republic the Foreign Minister, Tomas Petricek, has attacked the Prime Minister, Andrej Babis, over his decision to join Austria in attempting to veto the EU’s planned vaccine redistribution effort.

The effort failed, leaving the three countries which tried to veto it – Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovenia – with fewer vaccines than had originally been on the table.

The Czech Republic appears to have lost out on 140,000 extra doses, although Austria has offered the Czechs 30,000 of theirs compensation.

In Poland the number of cases and deaths is beginning to decline.

There were 28,073 new coronavirus infections and 571 deaths reported on Saturday.

The country is currently in a three-week partial lockdown after a surge in cases largely brought about by the UK variant.

Saturday was the second day in a row that Poland’s week-to-week comparison fell.

“This is another day of a more than 10% decline,” said the health minister,  Adam Niedzielski.

 “What happens in the coming weeks depends on how safe we are during Easter.”

The country has had 53,045 coronavirus-related deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Its ski resorts have already shut.

Last weekend nurseries, hairdressers and large DIY and furniture shops closed for two weeks.

The new measures come on top of a partial lockdown introduced last weekend that shut shopping centres, hotels, cultural and sporting facilities.

The Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, says Poland is experiencing its most difficult moment since the pandemic began, urging people to stay at home for Easter.

The UK variant is responsible for 80% of all new cases.

There are now more patients in hospital and more people on ventilators than at any time since the start of the pandemic.

Scandinavia

In Finland the Prime Minister Sanna Marin has proposed a new law to limit movement in the capital Helsinki to tackle an increase in Covid-19 cases.

The measure would stop people visiting each other’s homes in Turku as well as the capital.

Norway – We have also reported on the situation in Norway as new advice and recommendations are made for the Easter holidays.

Ski resorts in Finland, Norway and Sweden remain open.

In Sweden the vaccines coordinator Richard Bergstrom has told Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet that EU exports of AstraZeneca vaccines have virtually stopped.

EU leaders backed export controls at the end of last week but emphasised the importance of global supply chains.

Sweden has announced changes to its rules on entering the country from March 31st, with the UK now subject to the same rules as other non-EU countries.

There is a ban on entry until at least May 31st, but some groups of people are exempt, including Swedish citizens or residents.

People travelling to Sweden from the UK will need to show they belong to one of the exempt categories, and they will also need to present a negative coronavirus test that has been taken in the previous 48 hours.

Proof of coronavirus antibodies or full vaccination against the virus is not accepted as an alternative.

People will not be able to travel from the UK to visit friends or extended family in Sweden, for tourism purposes, or to visit a second home or summer house in Sweden unless they also belong to an exempt category.

Meanwhile what about travel this summer?

Prof Sir Mark Walport, former chief scientific adviser to the UK government, was on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday morning.

When asked whether the government should stop people travelling abroad, or make it difficult by enforcing quarantine after travel, he says: “I think this has to be driven by the data.”

“Certainly at the moment many countries in Europe have got case numbers that are going up – there are 36,000 cases a day in France, 16,000 in Germany, 22,000 in Italy. The numbers speak for themselves.”

He says he is “a bit concerned about the variants that may be less susceptible to the effects of the vaccine”.

But vaccines “are very good news”, Sir Mark says.

“And we also know that increasingly the vaccines reduce the transmission, and even milder disease.”

Later on Monday morning the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, popped up on ITV’s This Morning.

Mr Hancock said “the door is not shut” on international travel this summer, and more evidence on how vaccines work against variants will come in the next few weeks.

He explained that the “biggest problem” was emerging virus variants.

“We’re also working on a new vaccine that we might have to roll out in the autumn to give people a third dose that will deal with this problem. So we’re working on that now.”

He was asked if current vaccines might work against the South African and Brazilian variants.

“We’re not yet sure, but we’re doing the science in Porton Down, and watching very closely, and if that all goes well, then we haven’t got a problem and then we’ll be much more relaxed about international travel.

“We will know more over the next few weeks.”

We looked at the issue of summer holidays in the mountains earlier on PlanetSKI:

Castello di Sarre, Aosta Valley

Castello di Sarre, Aosta Valley. Image © PlanetSKI

Aosta, The Aosta Valley

Aosta, The Aosta Valley. Image © PlanetSKI

Here at PlanetSKI we will be updating this article with news from the other skiing nations and any further updates as they are announced…

Image © PlanetSKI

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