EXODUS FROM AUSTRIA PLUS THE CONFUSION OVER WHETHER & HOW TO SELF- ISOLATE
15th March 2020 | George Eykyn, PlanetSKI reporter
Last modified on August 5th, 2020
PlanetSKI’s George Eykyn left on Saturday after St Anton was shut down. But how do you find out whether to self-isolate and how long for? The advice was not readily to hand.
Things have moved so fast on Coronavirus in Europe, it’s hard to keep up.
In the Austrian resorts like St Anton where a quarantine was suddenly imposed on Friday afternoon, the measure caught a lot of people by surprise.
Resort workers were bewildered, and the consensus was that it felt weird, eerie, strange.
After the initial hiatus and shock had passed, the German term one heard most was “Schade” (what a shame or pity).
There was a resignation, an undercurrent of sadness – but no dispute.
Saying goodbye, some hotel staff pointedly wanted to shake hands with guests even though their next move was, of course, for a squirt of hand sanitiser.
Early next morning as we packed to leave, small groups of security forces could be seen deploying around the town.
While Austrian workers – and, note, locally-based UK ski operator staff – were to go into a 14-day lockdown, tourists were being allowed out.
There was an approved route.
A St Anton taxi took us to the new “border”, the edge of the quarantine zone.
Armed police assisted by soldiers manned a checkpoint, checking exit papers.
Another bus then took us to Innsbruck airport, where a screening checkpoint on the approach road stopped us and handed out facemasks on learning where we’d come from.
On arrival at Heathrow, I was watching carefully for the advice we’d be given.
There were some printed leaflets to take.
These clearly lagged behind events.
They didn’t even mention Austria.
It’s understandable: the Austrian authorities had moved decisively several times within 2-3 days, from announcing plans to close just one resort (Ischgl), to terminating the ski season abruptly across the Tirol region.
Despite talk of lifts operating through till the end of Sunday, in St Anton not a gondola nor a chair lift was moving as the resort bathed in sunshine on Saturday morning.
It was hard to believe the previous day we had been out skiing.
It’s disconcerting to be in a ski resort at any time when the lifts aren’t running; but even more so when it’s high season, glorious weather and “chocolate box” skiing weather.
Anyway, the Heathrow leaflet is of little use.
I’ve also searched hard online for proper guidance.
The earlier advice about returning from China, Hong Kong etc and latterly Italy, has largely vanished.
There’s a lot of text for travellers intending to travel outwards to various countries, or to emigrate.
However for returnees from countries with CV quarantine zones, there’s little, if any, information.
Even if I could see the country I travelled from listed, it doesn’t say how long I would need to stay indoors and isolate myself for.
What to do, then?
The Austrian authorities say they would like returning travellers to self-isolate as a precaution for 14 days (ie. do at home what they would have been forced to do onsite in the quarantine zones).
I’m being guided by that.
However, it’s fair to say that a lot of the advice in mainstream UK media for returning tourists emphasises “if you have symptoms”.
I also note, since returning to the UK, that the NHS advice for those with symptoms seems to be that you stay at home and isolate yourself for 7 days (not 14).
Back in Austria, as well as hotels, the government is closing all restaurants and bars from Tuesday, March 17.
Gatherings will be limited to no more than 5 people (even within homes).
The Austrian Federal Army has been mobilized, and the call-up has also gone out to those who chose to do civil, rather than military, service.
Here in the UK, I have consulted NHS111, and all the online guidance.
Fortunately, I’m not exhibiting Coronavirus symptoms; but I am going to limit my movements, staying at home for at least a week, initially.