The Austrian ski resorts open during the Christmas holidays, but for the vast majority of foreigners it becomes impossible to go skiing in Austria. That is the result of measures Chancellor Kurz announced today.
Of all the Alpine countries, only Switzerland wants to give foreign skiers more or less free track, despite pressure from Germany, France and Italy to close the ski resorts. Dutch people can still go skiing there, but they have to quarantine for ten days on return.
Last week Austria was still strongly opposed to a ski ban, but Kurz was still in favour of the other European countries. He announced that the ski resorts will open on 24 December, but that restaurants, hotels and other tourist accommodations will remain closed until 7 January.
In addition, foreigners from countries with more than one hundred infestations per 100,000 inhabitants must be quarantined for ten days after arriving in Austria. This applies to almost all European countries, including the Netherlands, Germany and France.
In practice, this boils down to the fact that almost only Austrians can go skiing there at Christmas. Kurz stressed that skiing itself does not pose a risk of infection. “It is an individual sport that is done in the open air.”
The German Health Minister says that he is pleased with the new rules of Austria. Italy, Germany and France keep the ski resorts closed or almost closed for the time being. In France they can open during Christmas, but the ski lifts remain closed.
Switzerland continues to oppose the pressure from its neighbours. Health Minister Alain Berset only wants to slightly limit the capacity of the ski lifts. The Swiss also emphasize that skiing is not dangerous. “Its about what comes next, the après-ski. And here we have taken extremely rigorous measures to mitigate the risks.”
These measures vary by canton in Switzerland. Often they come down to the fact that restaurants and bars allow limited numbers of people or close early.
However, that is far from enough for neighbouring countries. Germans returning from Switzerland have been in quarantine for more than ten days, and today the French government announced a mandatory one-week quarantine for French returning from the Swiss ski resorts. Prime Minister Castex warned that this will also be checked. Italy is also considering compulsory quarantine for citizens returning from Switzerland.
Moreover, in France and Italy, there is also opposition to the closures. The President of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region and the departments of Savoie, Isère and Haute-Savoie want to enforce openings through the courts.