Austria Government in Court over Reaction to Covid-19 in Ischgl
17th September 2021
Court proceedings are beginning in Vienna in a civil case against the Austrian government over its alleged mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak at the ski resort of Ischgl in March 2020. It is seen as a test case for many other cases. UPDATED
A 72-year-old Austrian journalist, Hannes Schopf, died with coronavirus after a skiing holiday in Ischgl in March 2020.
His widow and son are suing the Austrian government for €100,000 (£85,000) over what they call its chaotic handling of the outbreak at the resort.
Mr Schopf’s widow claims that her husband caught the virus during the mismanaged evacuation and that he was forced to be in close proximity with other sick skiers.
The Consumer Protection Association, VSV, is bringing this case and 14 others.
It could be the first of potentially thousands of compensation cases.
Other cases come from Germany, the UK and the Netherlands.
Many ski resorts undoubtedly helped contribute to the spread of coronavirus as although the slopes may be safe crowded lifts, apres ski bars and the social contact helped the virus spread in the resort.
Then people went back to their respective countries across Europe, many in enforced evacuations, with many taking coronavirus with them.
The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Alexander Klauser told reporters outside the court in Vienna that it was “a hurried, chaotic departure of thousands.”
He said the reaction was “too weak, too slow and too late.”
He said the state should accept its responsibilities.
An independent report into the spread of the virus in Ischgl and St Anton in October 2020 said the resorts could have closed earlier.
It said that the mass exodus when they were shut was badly handled & lessons should be learnt.
“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”.
PlanetSKI’s reporter, George Eykyn, was in the resort of St Anton when it was closed.