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Austrian officials may be sued over coronavirus at Ischgl ski resort

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  • The government of Tyrol, Austria, is facing legal action from 2,500 tourists for its handling of a coronavirus outbreak in the popular ski resort of Ischgl, according to CNN.
  • It’s the second complaint launched by the Austrian Consumer Protection Association, which said it suspects Tyrol’s health authorities were “negligent.”
  • Hundreds of coronavirus cases in Iceland, the UK, Germany, Ireland, Norway and Denmark can all be traced back to the town, according to Der Spiegel.
  • Tyrolean governor Günther Platter said in a statement sent to Business Insider that health authorities had reacted as soon as they had been made aware of cases, and the resort was quarantined by March 13.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The government in an Austrian region linked to a large coronavirus outbreak at a ski resort is facing a lawsuit, backed by 2,500 tourists, after its handling of the crisis.

Hundreds of early cases of coronavirus in Germany, Iceland, the UK, Norway, Denmark and Ireland can all be traced back to the fashionable ski resort of Ischgl, in the mountainous Austrian region of Tyrol, according to Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine

The Austrian Consumer Protection Association (Verbraucherschutzverein, or VSV) first filed a legal complaint against the Tyrolean local government on March 24, saying it suspected the “negligent endangerment of people by communicable diseases,” CNN reported.

Following this, it put out a call on its website to former tourists to the region saying it may be possible to claim damages.

Within five days, this call gained more than 2,500 responses from people affected by coronavirus, around 80% of them being German. “Nearly all reports concern Ischgl,” the VSV told CNN. 

The VSV said on its website that “keeping ski resorts open, even though authorities knew or should have known of a threat of mass infection, is certainly a reason to consider claims for damages.”

1999 02 25T120000Z_1035824859_PBEAHULWNCN_RTRMADP_3_AUSTRIA.JPG

An aerial view of the Austrian ski resort of Ischgl in Tyrol’s Paznaun valley, pictured here February 25 1999.

STR New/Reuters


Ischgl is a popular ski town, and is known for its bustling après ski party scene. Each hotel bed in the town brings in $12,000 per year, and the coronavirus crisis interrupted its March high season, according to Der Speigel. 

The closure of all après-ski bars was announced on March 11, but restaurants remained open, Der Spiegel reported. 

The office of the governor of Tyrol, Günther Platter, said in a statement sent to Business Insider that health authorities immediatedly contacted the Ischgl doctor once they were made aware of the situation by Icelandic health authorities, who noticed infections in returning travelers on March 5.

ischgl tyrol austria coronavirus hotspot

Popular ski resort town Ischgl in Tyrol, Austria, which has become a coronavirus hotspot, pictured here in April 2018.

Google Maps


According to Platter’s statement, Tyrolian officials then attempted to identify which hotels the Icelandic tourists had stayed at, and found that no guests or employees at the hotels had reported any flu-like symptoms to the doctor.

“Nevertheless, the health authorities had issued a directive to test all persons with flu-like symptoms for corona,” said the statement. 

When a German bartender was diagnosed with coronavirus on March 7, officials ordered further testing, the disinfection of the bar he worked at, and separation of employees, said the statement. The bar was closed on March 9.

“Shortly thereafter, the Tyrolean government officially closed all après ski bars in Ischgl and a few days later declared the tourist winter season to be over by officially closing all lifts and hotel facilities,” said the statement.

“Tyrol was the first province in Austria to take such far-reaching steps. In addition, the entire Paznaun valley was quarantined on March 13. Finally, on March 18, the province of Tyrol issued a quarantine order for all 279 municipalities in Tyrol.”

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