The dispute among Europe’s governments as to whether winter sports can take place in the pandemic continues. The head of the World Medical Association, Montgomery, insists on strict quarantine rules for returnees. Austria demands compensation in the event of a ban.
The Alpine countries continue to struggle over a common line as to whether the ski areas should open during winter holidays. Politicians and health experts are particularly skeptical in Germany. Frank Ulrich Montgomery, the chairman of the World Medical Association, urged strict rules for all those returning to travel. “Anyone who still thinks they have to go on a skiing holiday despite the high number of infections should know very clearly that they should be quarantined afterwards,” he told the “Rheinische Post”.
“All travelers returning from EU countries and third countries should be obliged to quarantine at least five days in every German federal state,” said the World Medical President. “Now only general and hard rules help, with no exceptions in individual countries.”
In fact, the federal government favors much stricter requirements. She wants to close all ski resorts in Europe because of the pandemic. Chancellor Angela Merkel said in the Bundestag on Thursday that she would seek a vote with the other states.
Reluctance from the Alpine Republics
But Germany’s stance is met with clear resistance from Austria and Switzerland. The government in Bern refuses to close the ski resorts. The country is trying to get the pandemic under control with less drastic measures than other countries. Shops and restaurants are still open in many places. Above all, the government relies on personal responsibility. However, some cantons have their own lockdowns.
The answer from Vienna is cautious. The government of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz wants EU compensation payments if the Commission should call for a Europe-wide waiver of skiing holidays. “The current proposal means serious economic losses for Austria,” said Finance Minister Gernot Blümel of the newspaper “Welt”. He is assuming a compensation claim of two billion euros if the ski areas have to close.
According to “Welt”, the ÖVP politician accused the large EU countries of making things too easy for themselves when they push for a ban or a recommendation from Brussels. “Our economy is much more dependent on winter tourism than Italy, France or Germany,” said the finance minister. In addition, the most important part of the winter season in Italy and France does not begin until February. These countries would therefore be “significantly less affected by their own proposal” than Austria.
“Winter sports unimaginable”
In fact, the major Alpine neighbors support Germany’s stance. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte only sparked the dispute when he suggested that ski areas be kept closed until at least January 10th. The current figures are “incompatible with the opening of winter sports,” said the President of the Italian Health Council, Franco Locatelli.
According to the current management report, the corona data indicate that the measures taken over the past few weeks are having an effect. The number of new infections every day is still significantly high. A high risk continues to apply in many regions.
Protests in France
France is currently negotiating a common line with Germany and other EU countries. Prime Minister Jean Castex announced on Thursday that the French ski resorts would be allowed to open during the Christmas holidays – but the ski lifts must remain closed. As everywhere in the country, the restaurants and bars should remain closed until at least January 20, according to the government’s corona regulations. Hundreds of people demonstrated against this plan in the city of Gap today.