Ischgl: Austria sued over Tyrol ski resort’s Covid-19 outbreak

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  • Coronavirus pandemic

Image rightsReutersImage descriptionThe outbreak in the ski village of Ischgl was linked to cases in 45 different countries *: not ([hidden]): not (style) ~ *: not ([hidden]): not (style) {margin-top: 1rem;}]]>

A consumer rights group is taking action against the Austrian government this year because of skid 19 outbreaks in ski areas in West Tyrol.

The group has filed four civil lawsuits initially, but it hopes to launch at least one class action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of people over the next year.

One resort, Ischgl, has been linked to cases in 45 countries after skiers brought home the virus.

The authorities have stated that they acted on the basis of the measures known at the time.

The first case in the ski village of Ischgl was reported on March 7th, but the Austrian health department has since announced that there were cases in the resort on February 5th.

The Consumer Protection Association (VSV), a private organization in Austria, said the four civil proceedings were filed on behalf of individuals and were all linked to the ski village of Ischgl.

They are seeking damages up to € 100,000 (£ 92,000; $ 117,000).

The SAAM described the four civil suits as test cases and said that more than 6,000 people from different countries would have registered for possible class actions in the next year.

Most of those who signed up are from Germany, but the group includes people from Austria, the UK and the US.

The SAAM has also written to the Austrian Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz asking him to agree to an agreement.

What is the government accused of?

The authorities claim that, based on the information available at the time, they reacted appropriately to the outbreaks in Tyrol.

However, the SAAM claims that local and national governments knew of the risk of mass coronavirus infection in popular ski areas and reacted too slowly.

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Alexander Klauser, a lawyer who represents some of those who were infected with the virus in Tyrolean holiday resorts, reported at a press conference on Wednesday that the authorities were informed about infections as early as February.

“On February 25th, the authorities closed a hotel in Innsbruck because one of the employees had tested positive. This means that the authorities reacted immediately when this case became known in Innsbruck, the capital of Tyrol.

“But they didn’t respond [to later cases], although there are indications that the Austrian authorities were informed of cases in Ischgl and other ski areas on March 3rd, 4th and 5th. “

He added: “A group of tourists from Iceland tested positive and the Icelandic government reported the cases to the Austrian government as early as March 5th.”

Peter Kolba, the head of the VSV, said at the same press conference that a hasty and delayed quarantine and evacuation on March 13 had resulted in tourists having to take overcrowded buses, which led to further infections.

He added that at least 32 tourists died after visiting Austrian ski resorts.

How the Ischgl eruption spread

  • March 5: Iceland puts Ischgl on a list of coronavirus risk areas after a group of skiers picked up the infection there
  • March 7th: A waiter in an après-ski bar called Kitzloch tests positive for Covid-19. Kitzloch should close two days later
  • March 13: The Paznaun Valley, including Ischgl and the resort of St. Anton am Arlberg, is quarantined, with Sölden following a few days later
  • Foreign tourists are still allowed to leave, which means the virus is spreading further

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