German Chancellor Angela Merkel calls on the European Union to ban skiing during the holiday season to stop the spread of the coronavirus. File Photo by Filip Singer/EPA-EFE
Nov. 26 (UPI) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she is seeking a ban on ski resorts throughout Europe ahead of the holiday season to stem the surging spread of the coronavirus, but not all countries are on board.
"The ski season is approaching. We are trying to come to an agreement in Europe on whether we manage to close down all ski resorts," Merkel said before the German Parliament on Thursday, calling for an EU-wide ban on ski resorts to prevent unnecessary contact among tourists.
"When we hear from Austria, it does not seem we can succeed easily, but we will try," she said.
During the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe, clusters were connected to ski resorts.
Italy and France have both shown support for the ban.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has asked Italians to stay home during the holiday season and placed restrictions on ski resort operations but said if neighboring countries don't do similarly their measures won't have much effect.
"It will not be possible to allow holidays on the snow this year, we cannot afford it," he said. "If Italy closes its lifts without support from France, Austria and others, Italians could go abroad and bring the disease back."
Emmanuel Macron, the president of France where ski resorts are currently closed, said "it will not be possible" for them to re-open this holiday season, stating it might be possible in January to do so if conditions are safe.
Ski resorts in Austria are also currently closed due to a lockdown but are set to reopen following the measure's expiration on Dec. 7.
Austria's Finance Minister Gernot Blumel said that if an EU-ban was enforced, "they will have to pay for it."
Salzburg Gov. Wilfried Haslauer told local news that he would be opening his city's ski resorts around Dec. 19, The Local reported.
The Austrian governor acknowledge that the ski season wouldn't be the same as usual but promised visitors "safe" skiing and that the companies "are well prepared."
Germany's call to ban skiing came a day after it agreed on Wednesday to extend coronavirus safety restrictions that have been in place since late October until Dec. 20.
"This winter will be hard but it will come to an end," Merkel said Thursday. "And now, when we are thinking so much about Christmas and New Year, I wish for myself and I wish for all that we pull together and that we are there for one another more than ever before. If we can embrace that, we will get through this crisis."
Last week, World Health Organization Director for the European Region Dr. Henri P. Kluge said they are seeing indicators of overwhelmed health systems as more than 4 million cases were added so far this month while deaths linked to the virus have climbed by 18% in the past two weeks.
"That's one person dying every 17 seconds in the European region from COVID-19," he said.
He said front-line workers are under "immense pressure" as they and their families make sacrifices, urging the public to do what they can to stymie the spread of the virus.
"Your country, community, family and friends need you like they have never needed you before," he said. "They need you like never before to act responsibility and to support them through the tough season ahead."
Europea as of Thursday accounts for more than 17 million cases, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control said. Globally, the pandemic has affected nearly 61 million people, according to a map of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.