An independent commission reported Monday that authorities in the Austrian Alpine region of Tyrol acted too slowly to shut down ski resorts in March after they were warned about COVID-19, particularly in the resort town of Ischgl, the scene of what was one of the earliest outbreaks in Europe.
The commission, appointed by the Tyrolean regional government in May, released its findings at a briefing in Innsbruck. Chairman Ronald Rohrer said authorities should have acted much sooner to shut down ski buses and cable cars, rather than waiting until March 12.
Roher told reporters that a group of skiers from Iceland who had been in Ischgl reported symptoms on March 3, more than a week before the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. By March 5, authorities in Tyrol were aware of the situation and started looking for possible contacts.
Rohrer reported that an Ischgl bartender tested positive for the virus on March 7, and the bar where he worked was shut down March 9. The next day, all apres-ski locations were closed. Rohrer said the decision to end the ski season was not made until March 12, and provincial governor Guenther Platter waited two days to give the order.
The commission also faulted federal and local government officials for poor communications after Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced March 13 that several areas would be put under quarantine but did not explain that foreign tourists and others would be allowed to leave.
Thousands of people contracted COVID-19 in Ischgl, most likely from crowded apres-ski bars, and then spread it across Europe as the tourists traveled home.
Last month, an Austrian consumer protection group filed four civil lawsuits against the country's government for failing to contain the coronavirus outbreak at the ski resort.
The cases were said to be laying the groundwork for a class-action lawsuit on behalf of at least 1,000 people who tested positive for COVID-19 following trips to Ischgl in February and March.