Italy delays reopening ski slopes to Jan. 18 as COVID cases stay high

ROME, Jan 2 (Reuters) - Italy has pushed back the re-opening of its ski resorts to Jan. 18 from a previously planned Jan. 7, the Health Ministry said on Saturday, indicating government concern over continued coronavirus infections.

Like much of the rest of Europe, Italy shut down its ski slopes over the Christmas and New Year holidays as part of a package of measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19.

Although the number of daily cases has fallen from a high of around 40,000 in mid-November to just over 20,000 at present, the infection rate has started to edge higher in recent days, and many hundreds of people continue to die each day.

Italy’s official death toll stands at some 75,000 -- the highest in Europe and the fifth highest in the world.

The health ministry said the closure of the ski resorts was extended at the request of regional chiefs and followed the advice of health experts. (Reporting by Crispian Balmer Editing by Ros Russell)