Austria to demand COVID-19 masks and passes for ski lifts

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Skiers practice COVID-19 social distancing on a chairlift in Flachau, Austria, January 15, 2021. REUTERS / Leonhard Foeger

VIENNA, September 20 (Reuters) – Austria will demand protective masks and COVID-19 passes for ski lift use this winter as it tries to attract foreign skiers for the first time in two years and also to prevent coronavirus epidemics.

The conservative-led government set the rules for the coming season at a press conference that stressed the importance of reviving tourism, which directly contributes around 5% of economic output in Austria.

The new rules do not require all skiers to be vaccinated and leave many details unclear, although public frustration with the confusion of the coronavirus rules has increased.

“This year there will certainly be winter holidays in Austria,” said Tourism Minister Elisabeth Koestinger. “We have developed strict rules for a safe winter.”

It contrasted with the previous winter season, when the resorts were open but the hotels closed, effectively preventing foreign visitors from coming to ski.

Skiers will need to wear face masks on closed ski lifts and show they have been vaccinated, tested or recovered from COVID-19 when booking a ticket, she said.

It was still unclear how unvaccinated people staying at the hotel for long stays would be asked to prove that they had recently been tested.

COVID-19 presents a challenge for ski resorts because although skiing is an outdoor sport, a lot of time on a ski vacation is spent in enclosed and often crowded spaces such as ski lifts and mountain restaurants.

The new measures include the classification of après-ski bars as nightclubs. What counts as an après-ski bar will be defined locally.

The rules for nightclubs are expected to tighten as intensive care units fill up. Strictly speaking, only clients who have been vaccinated or who have recovered from COVID-19 will be admitted.

“There will be no après-ski like before the pandemic,” said Guenther Platter, governor of the province of Tyrol, which includes top ski resorts like Ischgl, where Austria’s biggest epidemic s ‘was produced last year.

Report by François Murphy, edition of Timothy Heritage

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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