Botched Austrian Ski Resort Shutdown Spread Virus and Sowed Panic, Judge Says

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Austrian authorities should have shut down the ski resort of Ischgl at least four days earlier than they did because the risks it would spread Covid-19 were evident, said a panel of experts appointed by Tyrol province.

Ischgl, known as “Ibiza of the Alps” for its apres-ski culture, should have been closed by local authorities on March 9 after infections of guests and bar staff became known, according to Ronald Rohrer, a retired judge from Austria’s highest court, who headed the panel. Then, the mishandling of the resort’s evacuation caused chaos which may have accelerated the spread of the virus, he said on Monday as he presented the287-page report in Tyrol’s capital, Innsbruck.

The actual start of the resort’s quarantine on March 13 was botched by Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s premature public announcement on live TV, said Rohrer. The government’s failure to coordinate properly with local authorities caused panic that could have been avoided as thousands of tourists tried to leave the valley to avoid a lockdown, he said.

“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.”

A spokesman for the chancellor’s office did not have any immediate comment. No one was answering the phone at the Ischgl mayor’s office.

Read more: The ‘Ibiza of the Alps’ Prepares for a More Subdued Ski Season

The findings appear to back lawsuitsfiled last month against the Austrian government by skiers who infected with Covid-19 in Ischgl. More cases will come, according to lawyer for the plaintiffs. The Ischgl case is being closely watched to see whether governments might be held liable for shortcomings in their response to outbreaks around the world.

Prosecutors in Tyrol are also investigating suspects for criminal negligence in the matter.

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