BARCELONA - The Spanish region of Catalonia will not relax coronavirus restrictions on Monday as planned because of worsening infection rates, officials said, prompting some ski slopes to postpone their opening next week. The ski season has become a source of tension among European countries, with some allowing resorts to open and others, like France, banning it and planning border checks to stop people from crossing to ski. Catalonia's public ski resorts, which had planned to open after a Dec. 8 holiday, will remain shut until the region relaxes restrictions, said a spokeswoman from FGC, the public company that operates the resorts. Privately-owned ski slopes have not yet decided whether to open, said a spokeswoman from the regional federation of ski resorts. Baqueira Beret, Spain's largest ski station, which is in private hands, is sticking to its plan to open on Dec. 11 but that is subject to change while awaiting clarification from the Catalan government, a spokesman said. "We were reducing (contagion rates) very quickly ... Now the reduction is almost undetectable," Catalan health secretary Josep Maria Argimon told a news conference. The situation worsened after bars and restaurants were allowed to reopen on Nov. 23, Argimon said, adding current restrictions would remain in place for at least another 15 days from Dec. 7. Moving to the next phase would have allowed bars and restaurants to admit more customers indoors, while a weekend ban on travelling outside a resident's municipality would have been scrapped. Officials said, however, they would allow people to move freely within and outside Catalonia during the Christmas celebrations. Under Spain's decentralized political system, the regions are largely responsible for imposing their own coronavirus restrictions within national guidelines. The national Health Ministry on Thursday reported 10,127 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 1,675,902 - western Europe's second highest after France. The death toll climbed by 254 to 46,038. While Spain's daily infection rate has slowed in recent weeks, Health Emergency Chief Fernando Simon warned any relaxation of measures could trigger a resurgence in transmission. REUTERS
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