Authorities in Ischgl have been accused by the Austrian Consumer Protection Association (VSV) of acting too late in taking steps to stem the outbreak.
The VSV invited holidaymakers who’d been affected to register on its website. In just five days, 2,500 visitors have signed up, 80 per cent of whom are German, reports CNN.
The website says that those who visited the ski resorts of Ischgl, Paznauntal, St Anton, Sölden and Zillertal on or after 5 March and were diagnosed with Covid-19 a short while later “may be entitled to claim damages against the Tyrolean authorities”, provided the association can provide evidence of negligence.
‘’The global coronavirus pandemic qualifies as force majeure and nobody can be held responsible for any damage suffered,” says the VSV.
“However, keeping ski resorts open, even though authorities knew or should have known of a threat of mass infection, is certainly a reason to consider claims for damages.
“The VSV has therefore submitted a description of the facts to the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Vienna against the Tyrolean authorities.’’
Following the submission of the VSV’s report, the Tyrol Criminal Police Office has been commissioned by the public prosecutor’s office to undertake ”investigations on suspicion of negligent endangerment of people by communicable diseases,“ part of which concern the allegation that a catering company covered up a worker’s positive coronavirus test in February.
The office of Tyrol Governor Günther Platter told CNN that “it will be important afterwards to put all measures worldwide – and also in Tyrol – to the test to see where mistakes have been made and, on the other hand, which structures need to be changed.’’
However, it is focusing on “management of the crisis” at present.
Ischgl remained open for a full week after Iceland warned Austria that it was seeing a high number of coronavirus cases from skiers returning from the resort.
Platter’s office said the Tyrolean health authorities immediately contacted Ischgl’s doctor and ordered hotels to compile lists of Icelandic guests, plus “issued a directive to test all persons with flu-like symptoms for corona”.
The resort finally closed for the season on 13 March.
It follows a family from East Sussex’s claims that they may have been Britain’s first coronavirus victims after a visit to Ischgl in January.
Daren Bland, a 50-year-old IT consultant, travelled there on 15 January with three friends and said he fell ill when he returned to the UK with symptoms that matched Covid-19.
He added that he passed the infection to his wife and children, with his daughter developing a temperature and persistent cough during her illness.
If confirmed, the cases would show that transmission of Covid-19 within the UK occurred more than a month before the first reported case on 28 February.