China payback: Italian ski resorts to sue Beijing for coronavirus cover up

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Ski resorts bosses in the Dolomites in northern Italy were forced to end their ski season early in March devastating the local economy due to coronavirus. Resorts owners in the city of Cortina d’Ampezzo have now taken steps to sue the Chinese Ministry of Health over the deadly virus.

They claim that China did not “immediately inform” the World Health Organization (WHO) about the spread of the coronavirus and its serious lethal effects in Wuhan in December 2019.

They also claim the government failed to put in place “necessary control measures” at Chinese airports to halt the spread of the disease.

The action was started last month by a well-known hotel in Cortina d’Ampezzo and now has the backing of hundreds of other resorts.

In a written submission to the Court of Belluno, lawyer Marco Vignola, representing the hotel owners, said: “On March 12th, the hotel was forced to close early, right in the middle of the ski season, with disastrous consequences including the dismissal of all staff and the cancellation of supply and reservation contracts.

“The serious omissions of the Chinese Ministry of Health prevented the Italian State from immediately implementing health measures that would have certainly minimised the negative consequences derived from COVID-19.”

Vignola also claims that the spread of the virus halted the construction of important infrastructure projects for the Winter Olympics which the town is set to host in 2026.

This includes the construction of a new airport to deal with an influx of people expected for the historic event along with the Alpine World Ski Championships 2021.

Vignola claims that the international, cultural and sporting events will be severely impacted especially after the investment of “enormous economic resources”.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Spike in UK ski holidays as Britons avoid Alps

The hearing will take place on December 21 before the Belluno court.

By mid March, 1,809 people died in Italy from COVID-19 within weeks of the first case being confirmed at the end of February.

The news caused economic chaos leaving ski operators scrambling to repatriate clients from Italian resorts after the Foreign Office issued a warning to avoid all but essential travel to the whole of Italy.

Alongside Cortina d’Ampezzo, resorts which were affected included Courmayeur, Pila, Champoluc, La Thulie, Gressonay and Cervinia, Arabba, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Corvara & Colfosco, Kronplatz, La Villa, Selva, Ortisei, San Cassiano and Val di Fassa.

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Crystal, the biggest UK ski operator, said it had also been forced to cancel its holidays to the French resorts of Les Orres, Montgenèvre and Serre Chevalier for the remainder of the 2020 ski session.

Meanwhile, ski tourists in St Anton and Isch in neighbouring Austria are suing government authorities for covering up the presence of the virus.

More than 5,000 tourists from countries including America, Germany, Denmark and France are joining a class action that will accuse Austrian authorities of intentionally staying silent about the outbreak in the resort villages.

By withholding information, they believe, authorities decided that the euros being spent in local bars and hotels were more important than visitors’ health.

Austrian Prosecutor Hansjorg Mayr said he is currently reviewing a 1,000-page report by the State Office of Criminal Investigations, which includes written statements, interviews and documents.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.

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