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1,800 CASES OF COVID-19 LINKED TO ISCHGL

That’s the finding as initial information is released by official investigators. The first case may have happened a month earlier than previously thought, but there is a dispute over it.

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A public health official has said it is the biggest cluster of coronavirus cases in the country with 600 in Austria and possibly twice as many abroad.

Around 1,200 skiers and snowboarders from other countries including Germany, Norway, Iceland and the UK caught the virus in the resort and then took it home with them.

The resort’s thriving apres ski scene with people in close proximity is thought to have helped the spread.

“In terms of size, Ischgl is certainly dominant,” the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety’s (AGES) head of public health, Franz Allerberger, told a news conference.

“It is not just about these more than 600 people in Austria who are proven to have been infected there. We also have the same number if not twice that who are now abroad and whose cases are slowly being reported.”

The exact number in the resort is 611, but it should be put into context as there are 10,927 reported cases in Austria, so it is a very small fraction of the total.

Many ski resorts have been hotbeds for the spread of the virus and it is likely similar situations may have happened in many other ski resorts.

See this related PlanetSKI story where we hear from a ski instructor in Verbier, Switzerland, about people’s behaviour and how he caught and suffered from the virus.

The first case in Ischgl could come from early February, but there is some disagreement on this between the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Security (AGES) and the authorities in the Tirol.

AGES claims an Austrian waitress had the disease from February 8th though she was tested retrospectively on March 9th.

A test that looks for the genome of SARS-CoV-2 was used and it can deliver positive results weeks after recovery according to Franz Allerberger, Head of Human Medicine at AGES.

However the authorities in the Tirol dispute the case.

“This information is demonstrably non-factual,” it said.

It claimed that from a medical point of view, it cannot be scientifically proven at what time the coronavirus disease goes back.

The Austrian waitress stated that she had suffered from cold symptoms for about a month and was finally tested positive on March 9.

“The conclusion of AGES that the person had been suffering from Corona since February 8 – that is, for 30 days – is speculative,” said the state.

This is several weeks earlier than the previously thought first case,  a 36-year old German barman from the Kitzloch bar.

The barman tested positive on March 7th.

It had been thought he was the first of those affected in Ischgl to go to the doctor and be tested positive.

However it has now emerged that a Swiss waitress from the same bar tested positive on March 5th, two days earlier.

As the resort began to close facilities on March 10th Ischgl said the barman had been infected by a person from Iceland.

“He wrongly got the role of the alleged re-distributor, “said Allerberger as he announced information about the Swiss waitress.

For further details, in German, see this report on ORT.

An investigation is now under way into whether and when cases were reported and if the authorities followed all the correct procedures.

Some people who became ill with the virus are also joining a class legal action that is being co-ordinated by a consumer association.

The investigators are also looking at the mobile phone records of visitors to the resort to see if they inadvertently spread the virus.

There are allegations from some that the authorities should have acted much earlier and more consistently with regard to the rapid spread of the corona virus in Tirol.

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