Austrian ski resort made ‘momentous miscalculations’ which helped speed spread of Covid, report finds

Helen Coffey
·2-min read
Ischgl is a popular high-altitude resort
Ischgl is a popular high-altitude resort

“Momentous miscalculations” were made at an Austrian ski resort which helped speed up the spread of coronavirus earlier this year, an independent commission has found.

Having investigated how the resort of Ischgl in the Tirol region responded to the virus in March, the commission identified individual failings that helped contribute to thousands of holidaymakers catching Covid while staying there.

The report concluded that authorities should have shut down apres-ski bars, restaurants, ski lifts and all non-essential bus services on 9 March, the day after they had been informed that a local barman had tested positive for Covid-19.

Eleven of his colleagues had also experienced flu-like symptoms the previous week – but had continued to work and serve tourists.

However, the decision was not made to shut bars and restaurants until 10 March, and authorities waited a further two days before proclaiming the ski season was over.

Roland Rohrer, the former vice-president of the Austrian supreme court and the chair of the commission, said this was “a wrong decision, from an epidemiological perspective”, reports The Guardian.

He also criticised the Tirolean health authorities for claiming that a group of Icelandic tourists who had visited Ischgl and subsequently tested positive for Covid-19 back in Reykjavik had most likely caught the virus on their flight home, and not in resort.

The authorities had acted “untruthfully, and therefore badly”, said Rohrer.

The report also identified the Austrian chancellor’s decision to hurriedly evacuate the entire Paznaun valley as being a factor that exacerbated the problem even more.

Sebastian Kurz told a press conference on 13 March that tourists should vacate the area “speedily” to avoid quarantine, resulting in holidaymakers making a beeline for overcrowded buses that where then stuck in traffic as thousands of visitors tried to leave at the same time.

The commission said the evacuation could have been staggered, helping to reduce the potential spread of infection.

Although local police attempted to take down departing visitors’ contact details, the commission also found that this information was never passed on to the health authorities in their destination countries.

Alongside the commission, several other investigations are being conducted into the coronavirus outbreak in Ischgl, which has been described as “ground zero” for the first wave of the virus.

Innsbruck’s state prosecutor is investigating four main suspects, including Ischgl’s mayor, for negligence, while a consumer protection group has filed four civil lawsuits against the Austrian government after collecting signatures from more than 6,000 tourists who believe they were infected with coronavirus while staying in the Tirol region.

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