KOPAONIK, Serbia (Reuters) – Serbia is one of the few European countries to have opened its ski centres to the public despite the new coronavirus, but authorities are careful to apply precautions against a pandemic causing several thousand new infections a day.
With 35 km (22 miles) of slopes and 25 lifts, the Kopaonik resort bordering Kosovo is the biggest ski centre in the country.
“People should not be afraid, skiing by itself is one of the safest sports,” said Filip Filipovic, a skiing instructor at Kopaonik. “People use gloves, face masks or scarves and glasses.”
Increasing numbers of visitors flocked to Kopaonik following the start of the school holidays last week. New measures were introduced, with hotels allowing only their own guests to use their restaurants and cafes.
Hotels have also limited the number of people allowed in spa centres. Chair lifts operate at half capacity, with three people sitting in a chair for six people.
“I like skiing so much that I pushed back my fear (of coronavirus infection). We are taking care of ourselves, we wear masks,” said Nadja, a holidaymaker from the southern town of Nis.
With a weekend lockdown imposed two weeks ago, skiers are still allowed to buy coffee, tea or mulled wine and drink it on the go.
“If we respect all measures, we are hoping to see a successful season,” said Dejan Cika, head of the Serbian state company in charge of ski slopes.
“We expect to see more guests on the mountains in Serbia as many skiers who are used to skiing abroad will remain in the country,” he said.
Serbia on Monday reported 3,685 coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours and 47 deaths. Since the start of the pandemic around 300,000 people in the country, including more than 3,000 nurses and doctors, have become infected, and 2,733 have died. Hospitals are running at full capacity
(Reporting by Marko Djurica; Writing by Ivana Sekularac, Editing by William Maclean)