French ski lifts will not reopen on Feb 1 - tourism minister

·2-min read
The questions to the government session at the National Assembly in Paris

PARIS (Reuters) - French ski lifts will not reopen on February 1 and it is not clear for now whether French people can start booking winter holidays in February, French Tourism Minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne said on Thursday.

French ski resorts can welcome tourists but the lifts have not been allowed to open since the start of the season. With no mechanical means to lift them up the slopes, skiers and snowboarders have resort to trudging up the slopes with snow shoes.

Early January, the government said lifts would be allowed to reopen on Jan. 20 if the spread of the COVID-19 virus had been slowed, but in recent days new cases have spiked higher again.

Lemoyne declined to say when ski lifts could reopen, but he said certainly not on Feb. 1 and that the government might have to take additional measures if necessary.

He also said that it was too early to say whether French citizens could go on holiday in February and too early to say when restaurants could reopen.

"Things are uncertain now because the priority is the fight against the virus," he said in an interview with France 5 television.

On Wednesday, the health ministry reported 26,784 new confirmed COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, the highest daily case tally since Nov. 18, when France was in lockdown.

The number of people in intensive care units with coronavirus also rose by 13 to 2,852, approaching the 3,000 level threshold the government has set for deciding on whether to ease or tighten lockdown conditions.

"This encourages us to err on the side of caution," Lemoyne said, adding that the government was waiting to see whether a nationwide curfew from 1800 CET would slow down the spread of the virus before taking new decisions.

(Reporting by Geert De Clercq and Dominique Vidalon, Editing by Alexandra Hudson)