ISCHGL UNDER INVESTIGATION OVER CLAIMS IT DID NOT DO ENOUGH TO LIMIT SPREAD OF CORONAVIRUS
26th March 2020 | James Cove, PlanetSKI Editor
Last modified on March 29th, 2020
The ski resort in the Tirol was the first resort in Austria to announce it was closing after a 36-year old barman contracted the disease. It is claimed the virus was passed on in the apres ski venues and partygoers then took it back to their home country.
Austrian prosecutors have this week opened a criminal investigation into allegations that suspected infections in the resort of Ischgl were covered up.
The mayor of Ischgl, Werner Kurztold, has told the German newspaper Der Spiegel: “We implemented all regulations in a timely manner.”
The shutdown has been “a catastrophe” for the town, he added.
It has now emerged that a 50-year old British man, Daren Bland from East Sussex, may be the first UK case of Covid-19.
He may have picked it up in Ischgl in mid-January.
There is no confirmation of this.
He was skiing in Ischgl from January 15th to 19th with three friends – one from the USA and two from Denmark.
All fell ill on their return with classic coronavirus symptoms.
“The authorities have done everything humanly possible in the belief that they are acting correctly,” said a statement from Ischgl.
“Can we really do everything right in a situation like this?”
“We will of course review operational procedures afterwards and clarify whether matters could have been handled better, and if so, how.”
PlanetSKI was in the Alps covering the spread of the coronavirus and the reaction of authorities as ski resorts closed across the mountains. We followed the events unfolding in Ischgl closely.
This is what we currently know here at PlanetSKI:
On March 7th a 36-year old German bartender at the Kitzloch bar tested positive for coronavirus.
To begin with there was some confusion about his nationality as he had a Norwegian name.
At the time the resort said the barman had contracted the virus from someone from Iceland.
22 other staff at the Kitzloch bar were put in quarantine.
The first confirmed case in the Tirol was on the 26th of February, but here at PlanetSKI we cannot confirm where it was.
On March 4th Iceland warned the Austrian authorities that several Icelandic tourists had been infected with the virus while in Ischgl.
The country’s chief epidemiologist, Thorolfur Gudnason, used Europe’s official Early Warning and Response System.
On March 5th Iceland advised against unnecessary travel to Ischgl.
It put it on a par with China, South Korea, Italy and Iran.
Icelandic people who had been in the ski resort since February 29th were asked to stay in quarantine at home for 14 days and to report it to their health clinic.
It is claimed this should have alerted the authorities in Ischgl to the seriousness of the situation.
Visitors from Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Germany and Austria are reported to have begun testing positive for coronavirus after returning from the ski resort in early March.
On 10th March the resort closed all its main apres ski venues for an ‘indefinite period of time’.
- Nevada Alm
- Niki’s Stadl
- Wedl Alm
- Schatzi Bar
- Niko’s Hexenkuchl
- Ischgler Einkehrschwung (Hotel Alpenglühn)
- Trofana Alm
- Champagner Hütte
- Paznauner Taja
At the time there were 32 reported cases across the Tirol.
Ischgl had reported 14 positive tests and it appeared all had been infected via the barman.
On the 11th March the resort decided to close at the weekend for 14 days with the last day of skiing on Friday 13th.
It then announced it was closing for the season along with all other resorts in the Tirol after a directive from the provincial authorities.
“Investigations by the health authorities are well underway,” said Anita Luckner-Hornischer from the Tirol public health authority at the time.
“The health authorities are making every effort to track down any additional potential contacts from the last few weeks.”
It is likely many other ski resorts spread the virus in a similar fashion, and the case of Ischgl should not be seen in isolation.
Here at PlanetSKI we know of a girl who travelled to France on Saturday 14th March as the authorities had not closed the resorts.
They then shut them once everyone had arrived and the girl, along with many thousands of others, was then ordered to leave.
A few days later on her return she showed the symptoms of coronavirus and went into isolation.
It is possible the decision to allow skiers and snowboarders to travel to resorts and then send them all home within 24-hours will have contributed to the spread of Covid-19.
STATEMENT FROM ISCHGL
The Corona virus infections have led to an exceptional situation across the globe, that has not been seen before.
In Ischgl, and across Austria, all measures have been introduced based on official directives and are being implemented immediately.
These comprehensive measures, which will ultimately be in place until the end of the winter season which has been curtailed prematurely, have been set in place in close cooperation with the relevant authorities.
The health and the safety of the Tirol people, staff in the tourist operations in the state and guests from across the globe are our uppermost priority.
Right here too we always endeavour to do everything correctly.
With what we know today we do have to recognise that tackling this crisis presents a huge challenge and there is no empirical global data available.
In this area, the authorities have done everything humanly possible in the belief that they are acting correctly.
Even the classification to ‘pandemic’ status by the Robert Koch Institute – which is having to be permanently upgraded – reveals just how dramatic the situation has become.
Can we really do everything right in a situation like this?
We will of course review operational procedures afterwards and clarify whether matters could have been handled better, and if so, how.
Right now, we all have to work to overcome this virus, become and remain healthy again and gradually, step by step, find our way back to our usual, preferred way of life.
Meanwhile the owner of the Kitzloch bar in Ischgl is reported to feel victimised.
At the time of the resort closing the authorities said the 36-year old barman had been infected by a person from Iceland.
“Our employees also had to be infected by someone, since most of them are only here during the season,” said the Kitzloch owner, Bernhard Zangerl to the German web site, t-online.
“Chalking up an illness to a company is a cheek. The problem with the virus is also that you don’t notice it as a person affected.”
PlanetSKI will update this article when we learn more…