Coronavirus: Ischgl station at the heart of the European outbreak reopens

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A police officer with protective gear at a roadblock outside the Panznautal Valley following the imposition of a coronavirus quarantine on March 14, 2020 near Ischgl, Austria.

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Legend

Ischgl is believed to be the place where hundreds of European skiers were infected


Austria has lifted strict quarantine on three Tyrolean ski resorts that were hot spots for coronaviruses.

The three include Ischgl, known as “Ibiza of the Alps”, where hundreds of tourists from all over Europe are said to be infected.

The seaside resorts of St Anton am Arlberg, Sölden and the Paznaun valley – which surrounds Ischgl – have been closed since mid-March.

They will now be subject to the same locking rules as the rest of Austria.

Earlier this month, the Austrian public health agency said Ischgl was behind the largest group of coronavirus cases in the country, infecting more than 600 Austrians and up to twice as many people abroad, particularly in Germany and the Scandinavian countries.

Foreign skiers have brought the coronavirus home.

The Tyrolean provincial government said in a statement on Tuesday that there have only been 10 positive cases in the past 12 days.

In general, Austria did not resist too badly during this pandemic. He says he has managed to flatten the infection curve and has declared a total of around 500 deaths, less than many countries report in a single day.

As a result, it is slowly relaxing the restrictions. Small stores are already reopened and plans to open all stores in early May, followed by restaurants in the middle of the month.

  • Austria and Italy make it easier to lock certain stores
  • Why you should now wear a mask in Austrian stores

But local politicians admit that mistakes were made in Tyrolean ski resorts.

How the Ischgl epidemic spread

Local authorities in Tyrol have been accused of reacting too slowly after the virus began to spread in crowded après-ski bars in February and March:

  • March 5: Iceland has placed Ischgl on a list of areas at risk for coronavirus after a group of skiers apparently caught the infection there
  • March 7: A waiter at an après ski bar called Kitzloch tested positive for Covid-19. Kitzloch was ordered to close two days later
  • March 13: The Paznaun Valley, including Ischgl, and the seaside resort of St Anton am Arlberg were quarantined, followed a few days later by Sölden
  • Foreign tourists were still allowed to leave, further spreading the virus.

Who was Patient Zero?

At a press conference earlier this month, Franz Allerberger of the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (age) said it was clear that the virus was present in ski resorts before the Kitzloch server did not test positive in March.

He said Patient Zero was said to be an Austrian waitress who started showing symptoms on February 8. Tyrolean authorities dispute this, claiming that the first case appeared on March 7. They say they took drastic action in a timely manner.

The Austrian government has promised an investigation into what happened in Tyrol.

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Getty Images

Legend

Tyrolean government has reported 10 cases in the past 12 days


Image copyright
Getty Images

Legend

Known as “Ibiza of the Alps”, Ischgl is renowned for its après ski bars


Meanwhile, the Austrian Consumer Protection Association, VSV, collects signatures for a possible class action on the grounds that the Tyrolean ski resorts were kept open for commercial reasons, despite the outbreak of Covid-19 .

He said he had sent a description of the facts to the Vienna public prosecutor’s office “against the Tyrolean authorities”.

Peter Kolba of VSV says that almost 5,000 people have registered. Most of them, more than 3,400, are from Germany, and the list also includes nearly 400 Dutch and more than 120 British.

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