Authorities made “momentous miscalculations” by first hesitating and then rushing to evacuate an Austrian ski resort as the first wave of Covid-19 struck Europe.
An independnet commission appointed by the Tirolean regional government reportedly identified individual failings that helped speed up the spread of the virus across the continent.
Ischgl, a town of 1,600 people in the Tirolean Paznaun valley, has been in the spotlight since March, after thousands of tourists, including at least 180 Britons, caught the virus there during the spring holidays and carried it back to their home countries.
The commission, chaired by the former vice-president of the Austrian supreme court, said in its report that authorities should have shut down apres-ski bars, restaurants, ski lifts and non-essential bus services on March 9.
Health authorities had been informed the previous day that a waiter at one of the town’s bars had tested positive for Covid-19 and 11 staff members had served tourists for a week while displaying flu-like symptoms.
Yet bars in Ischgl were not ordered to shut down until March 10 and the skiing season not declared over until two days later.
Roland Rohrer, the commission’s chair, described this as “a wrong decision, from an epidemiological perspective”.
Rohrer said the Tirol’s health authorities had acted “untruthfully, and therefore badly”, when they announced on March 5 that a group of Icelandic skiers who had tested positive in Reykjavik had probably caught the virus on their flight home and not in Ischgl, The Guardian reported.
However, the expert commission found no evidence that authorities had been lobbied by the local tourism industry to keep the ski lifts running for as long as possible.
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