France to 'deter' skiers searching for resorts still open abroad

FILE PHOTO: A closed chairlift is seen at the ski resort of Passo Tonale in the Dolomites which has become a virtual ghost town after the government decision to close everything down in fear of the rising numbers of coronavirus (COVID-19) infections, in Passo del Tonale, Italy, November 26, 2020. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

PARIS (Reuters) - France will put restrictions on people travelling abroad to find ski resorts not subject to COVID-19 shutdowns this Christmas, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday.

"If there are countries, within or outside the EU, that keep their ski resorts open, we'll put in place control measures to deter our citizens from going to areas where we think there is a risk of infection," Macron told a news conference.

"We also want to avoid creating an unbalanced situation with resorts in France, Italy and Germany likely to close while others open," he said after meeting with Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo.

"So yes, we'll put in place restrictive and dissuasive measures", Macron said, adding these will be "fine-tuned in the coming days".

European countries have struggled to act in unison on the topic, with billions of euros at stake for some countries as well as tens of thousands of seasonal jobs.

France, joined by Italy and Germany, is keeping resorts open but ski lifts closed at Christmas.

But Switzerland, which is not a member of the EU, has allowed its resorts to start opening and does not plan to close them, despite a relatively high number of deaths nationally related to the coronavirus.

EU member Austria, under a national lockdown that ends on Dec. 7, is heading towards a reopening of resorts before Christmas.

During the first wave of infections last season, some ski centres became breeding grounds for the coronavirus, accelerating its spread across Europe.

(Reporting by Henri-Pierre Andre in Paris and Francois Murphy in Vienna; Writing by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by)

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