Coronavirus: Austrian ski resort linked to hundreds of cases across Europe

Authorities didn’t close slopes despite worker at popular bar allegedly testing positive

epa08293577 (FILE) - Skiing tourists in Ischgl, Austria, 29 November 2013 (reissued 14 March 2020). According to reports, the Austrian government has put popular touristic areas, Heiligenblut am Grossglockner, Paznautal, including Ischgl, and St. Anton under quarantine amid the ongoing Coronavirus crisis.  EPA/STR  AUSTRIA OUT
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A ski resort in Austria that has been linked with hundreds of a coronavirus cases in Europe has come under intense pressure amid claims it failed to report a positive test for a bar worker.

The worker at Ischgl, a tiny town of 1,500 in the Austrian Alps. reportedly fell ill with the virus in February but the resort stayed open for weeks after, finally closing on March 13.

The barman worked at popular venue for socialising after a day of skiing.

Since returning from Ischgl in March, people from Iceland, Austria, Norway, Denmark and Germany have tested positive for coronavirus.

Local authorities have since opened an investigation into the situation. As many as 1,000 seasonal workers and a handful of tourists are stranded in the town as a quarantine is enforced. Some 4,500 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Austria.

Austrian newspaper Der Standard said the Tyrol’s winter sports strongholds had fallen “into disrepute” as it criticised the region’s late reaction to the virus as “hundreds of tourists” became infected.

The paper claimed that skiers only became aware that Ischgl was to become quarantined as they hurriedly returned from a day on the slopes on March 13. It was believed they still had a couple of days before the resort was to be closed.

“In retrospect, this chaos could have been avoided. But even if those responsible have been under constant stress for weeks, their actions must already be questioned,” an editorial in Der Standard read.

Ischgl mayor Werner Kurz said the situation was a “catastrophe” for the town.

"But we aren't yet talking about the economic consequences. We will overcome that, just as we have been able to overcome flooding and avalanches in the past,” he told German newspaper Der Spiegel.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Austria will start using more rapid tests to be able to test hundreds of thousands of people as quickly as possible.

The country of 8.8 million has tested around 24,000 people already but health minister Rudolf Anschober said “the number of tests is increasing and will continue to increase dramatically over the next two to three weeks”.

Military reservists are also being mobilised to supports efforts to fight the coronavirus outbreak by supporting the delivery of food supplies and backing up police operations.