While many ski resorts in Italy were due to begin welcoming snow fans this week, the Italian Government has now decided to delay the reopening until at least 5 March.

The decision was made after a number of cases of the British COVID-19 variant were detected in the country. Anxious around the spread of this and other variants, health minister Roberto Speranza has decided to take action. His statement revealed that 17.8% of those recently diagnosed with the virus had the variant first found in the UK.

Group of people with snowshoes exploring glacier
Italian resorts have been closed for months © Poncho/Getty Images

The initial reopening plan was to allow skiing and snowboarding activities to be solely enjoyed by locals, with a non-essential travel ban between regions and localities remaining in place. The country is operating a national tiered system of COVID-19 restrictions at present, and permission to reopen was set to apply to resorts in the lower virus-risk yellow zones. At present, many of Italy’s 21 regions are classified as yellow.

The health ministry has now designated Abruzzo, Liguria, Tuscany and Trento as 'orange' zones, based on regional health data. The main ski areas are in yellow zones, including Lombardy, Trento, Piedmont, Valle d’Aosta and Veneto, except for the South Tyrol region, which is in the orange zone.

When the ski resorts finally open, it is expected that there will be a limit capacity imposed on lifts, the wearing of face masks will be mandatory and social distancing in queues will be enforced. While the ski industry has been badly affected by the closures, the new Italian prime minister, Mario Draghi, has assured the sector that it will be compensated for its economic losses.

This article was originally published on February 12, 2021 and updated on February 18, 2021. 

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This article was first published February 2021 and updated February 2021

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