Austrian Authorities Could Have Done More to Contain Covid-19 in Ski Resorts

That’s the finding of an independent report in the spread of the virus in Ischgl and St Anton.
The resorts could have closed earlier, the mass exodus when they were shut was badly handled & lessons should be learnt. UPDATED

Thousands of people were infected, and it has been alleged that the authorities allowed it to spread after not closing down following known outbreaks in bars.

“There were errors of judgement that had consequences,” said Ronald Rohrer, the head of the investigating commission and a former vice president of Austria’s supreme court.

The resorts should have been closed down four days earlier than they were, according to the report.

It says ‘momentous miscalculations’ were made.

The commission was set up by the state government.

It interviewed 53 people who were involved with decision making and the report runs to 287-pages.

It also found errors into how the quarantine was announced by the Austrian Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz.

“The Chancellor announced the quarantine while that wasn’t his job, surprisingly, and without proper preparation,” Rohrer said.

“That led to panic reactions by guests that left precipitously.”

The report called it “impromptu and without consideration for the necessary preparation”.

It is alleged that many people contracted the virus in the mass exodus from the resorts and then took the virus back to their home countries.

Ischgl Timeline

March 5th – Iceland warns its citizens not to travel to Ischgl after group of Icelandic skiers who had been in the resort test positive in Reykjavik.

March 5th – Tirol Health Authorities claim they had probably caught the virus on the plane home and not in Ischgl.

March 8th – Barman from Kitzloch apres ski venue tests positive for Coronavirus and 11 other members of staff show the symptoms.

March 10th – Bars and Clubs shut down.

March 11th  – Resort says it will close for 2-weeks.

March 12th – Resort says it will close at the weekend for the rest of the season.

March 13th – Quarantine brought in.

March 14th – Foreign Tourists evacuated.

The report says the resort of Ischgl should have been closed immediately after the first positive test.

“From 8 March, a correct assessment should have led to the closing of bars, the stopping of ski lifts and orderly management of departures” said the report.

Apres ski in Ischgl

Apres ski in Ischgl. Photo credit – PlanetSKI

Mr Rohrer said that in some respects the authorities had reacted “appropriately” to the rise in cases.

He stressed that the intention of the report was to allow Austria and other countries to “learn from the mistakes of the past”.

PlanetSKI readers have been voicing their views over on the PlanetSKI Facebook page.

Facebook reaction

Facebook reaction

PlanetSKI’s reporter, George Eykyn, was caught up in the exodus from St Anton and subsequently developed the symptoms of coronavirus when the returned to the UK.

Exodus from Austria plus confusion on whether and how to self-isolate

St Anton, Austria, resort closes early 13 March 2020

6,000 people from 45 countries, including Britain, the US and Germany, said they contracted Covid-19 from their ski holiday and have launched a joint legal action.

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Three German people and the family of an Austrian man who died from the coronavirus after holidaying in Ischgl are claiming damages from the Austrian authorities.

The Ischgl case is being closely by other ski resorts to see whether the authorities might be held liable for shortcomings in their response to coronavirus outbreaks.

The state prosecutor in Innsbruck is investigating four people for criminal negligence, including Ischgl’s mayor, for “deliberate or negligent endangerment of people through transferrable diseases”.

The report found no evidence that authorities had been lobbied by the local tourism industry to keep the ski lifts, bars and hotels open for as long as possible.

Ischgl has come in for particular criticism, though claims it has learnt from the experience and has embarked on a damage limitation exercise.

Ischgl sets out to rebuilt image and reputation after Covid-19

Ischgl, Austria

Ischgl, Austria

St Anton meanwhile has revealed what next winter will look like with coronavirus restrictions in place.

Arlberg ski area announces Covid-19 policy for its lift system

While the Tirol has also revealed the restrictions and policies across all its resorts for next winter.

Tirol unveils plans for a safe winter

With traditional apres ski banned.

Austria bans apres ski for next winter

Apres ski

Apres ski. Photo credit – PlanetSKI