According to a report released on Monday, local and federal authorities could have contained the spread of a coronavirus outbreak that infected thousands of tourists in two Austrian ski resorts.

“From March 8, a correct assessment should have led to the closure of bars, the stopping of ski lifts and the proper management of runs,” said tourists from Ischgl, a village in western Tyrol, in a report by AFP.

After a bartender in Ischgl tested positive for COVID-19 on March 7, the tourists were not informed. The skiing and partying lasted for several days until a complete and immediate closure of Ischgl and Sankt Anton, a nearby ski area, was announced on March 13.

Tourists had to evacuate in a matter of hours, and in the end, more than 6,000 people from 45 countries including the UK, US and Germany said they contracted COVID-19 while on vacation.

“There were errors of judgment that had consequences,” said Ronald Rohrer, Commissioner and former Vice President of the Austrian Supreme Court, on Monday at a press conference in Innsbruck, the capital of the Tyrolean region.

The abuse was accused of allowing sick tourists to carry the virus to their respective home countries, at a time when cases had not yet been seen in much of Europe and before the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic.

The report, which was based on an investigation by an expert commission set up by the state government, also found serious errors in the announcement of the quarantine by Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and called it “spontaneous and without regard to the necessary preparation”.

“It triggered a panic reaction among the vacationers and there was traffic chaos,” the report said.

Two press releases, one of which described the risk of infection as “rather unlikely” even though the bartender worked in a crowded après-ski bar frequented by more than 200 tourists, were “wrong” and “bad”.

The reports between state and regional officials seen by AFP also show that the authorities misled the public in order to “get Ischgl out of the line of fire”, according to an email from Landeck district chief Markus Maass, who manages Ischgl.

The documents viewed by AFP include official letters in which the public prosecutor of Tyrol informs four people – Maass, Ischgl’s mayor Werner Kurz and two other officials – that they are being examined for deliberate or negligent endangerment of people by infectious diseases.

Three German survivors and the family of an Austrian who died of the coronavirus after vacationing in Ischgl are demanding compensation from the Austrian authorities between 12,000 and 100,000 euros.

Almost half of the Austrian ski area affected by the virus has antibodies: study

© 2020 AFP

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