Thousands of tourists were infected in the Ischgl ski resort, which was evacuated late and chaotically
The Austrian authorities are facing from this Friday the first process for the massive contagion of tourists during the first wave of the coronavirus that had its origin in the Austrian ski resort of Ischgl. A widow and her son claim before the Vienna Court for compensation of 100,000 euros for the death of the husband and father, a 72-year-old journalist. The plaintiffs denounce the negligent action and failure of the authorities to alert visitors to the ski resort, where it took more than a week since the first infections were registered until the authorities ordered its evacuation and closure. “I estimate that up to 3,000 similar lawsuits against the Alpine republic will be counted,” said Peter Kolba, from the Vienna Association for Consumer Protection (VSV) representing the family of the deceased journalist, at the beginning of the trial.
The VSV intends to present collective complaints after this process and does not rule out that in the end the Austrian authorities will negotiate the award of compensation. Kolba and his team have also called Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler, Interior Minister Karl Nehhammer and the then Minister of Health Rudolf Anschober to testify during the trial. “Kurz is a decisive witness,” said Kolba, as he will be able to explain how the talks between the government of Vienna and the federal state of Tirol developed to decide and coordinate the evacuation of the ski resort. Ischgl is considered one of the great centers of the spread of the epidemic in Europe. Tracking more than 10,000 infections in 40 countries that were recorded in the first half of March 2020 leads to the Tyrolean ski resort.
Although on March 5 the Reykjavik authorities alerted Vienna that 14 Icelandic tourists had tested positive for coronavirus upon their return home from visiting Ischgl, it was not until March 13 that the governments of Vienna and Innsbruck ordered the station to be closed. skiing and evacuating all the tourists who were enjoying a winter vacation. Kolba accuses the Alpine authorities, not only of negligently delaying the evacuation, but of doing it in a hasty and disorderly manner. The belated announcement “provoked panic reactions among guests and workers,” notes an independent report by experts who analyzed what happened in Ischgl. The VSV considers that the authorities did not take advantage of the weekend to carry out a staggered and orderly evacuation and caused chaos when organizing the return of tourists who were in the ski resort. The official report acknowledges that mistakes were made in Ischgl, but that it cannot be spoken of as a general failure.
The Austrian financial prosecutor’s office, which represents the interests of the state before the court, has so far insisted that the right thing was done and that in the debate on the errors of the authorities it must be borne in mind that then the knowledge that was not yet existed they now have on the virus. An apology that Kolba does not accept. “Our strongest argument is that the ski resort could have been closed a week earlier”, when the first infections were registered, says the lawyer. Ischgl is not only a ski resort, but a center for massive nightly celebrations, in which the virus probably spread rampant causing thousands of infections. The massive infections of Ischgl could also have criminal consequences. The Innsbruck Public Prosecutor’s Office is investigating the local mayor and four officials from Tirol and the Landeck district for intentionally or negligently threatening the health of people with a contagious disease