The Ischgl resort in Austria was linked to outbreaks earlier this year

Germany is seeking an agreement with EU countries to keep ski resorts closed until early January, in an attempt to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Chancellor Angela Merkel told parliament that efforts were being made to reach a Europe-wide decision.

Italy and France have expressed support for a co-ordinated approach. But Austria has voiced concern.

Some of the early European coronavirus hotspots were at ski resorts, helping spread infections across the continent.

Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that Europe faced a ahead amid mounting cases. Renewed restrictions have led to a reduction in new infections in some countries, but there are fears the pandemic could worsen over the winter.

Like Germany, Italy has also stressed the need for a united approach on the issue of ski resorts, and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has already backed delaying the start of the ski season.

“If Italy decided to shut down all its ski lifts without any support from France, Austria and the other countries, then Italian tourists would risk going abroad and taking the contagion back home,” he told La7 TV earlier this week.

Many Italians head for the slopes over the Christmas and New Year break and the period is a vital part of the local economy for ski resorts across Europe.

French President Emmanuel Macron has made clear that the country’s ski resorts will stay shut until the New Year. Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Thursday he wanted to see the coronavirus rules for ski resorts “harmonised at European level as much as possible”.

France plans to ease its current national lockdown in three phases through to the end of January. Most restrictions will be eased for a few days over Christmas. Mr Castex said “this family celebration cannot take place without grandparents being present”.