Wed | Oct 21, 2020

Group sues Austrian gov't over ski resort coronavirus outbreak

Published:Wednesday | September 23, 2020 | 2:31 PM
Attorney Alexander Klauser (left) and chairman of the consumer protection association Peter Kolba speak during a joint press conference of a class-action lawsuit against the Tirol regional authorities for failing in their public health duties, related to the virus outbreak in the ski-resort of Ischgl, seen as a key location from which the virus spread across Europe, in Vienna, Austria, Wednesday, September 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

VIENNA (AP) — An Austrian consumer protection group said Wednesday it has filed four civil lawsuits against the country’s government for failing to contain a coronavirus outbreak at an Alpine ski resort that has been blamed for thousands of infections worldwide during the early phase of the pandemic.

The chairman of the Consumer Protection Association, Pete Kolba, said the cases —involving an Austrian and three Germans — will test the ground for a class action on behalf of 1,000 people who fell ill with COVID-19 following a trip to Ischgl in February and March.

The outbreak in Ischgl, a popular resort in western Austria, is considered one of Europe’s earliest “super-spreader” events of the pandemic.

Kolba said his association, which is known by its German acronym VSV, has been contacted by 6,000 people from 45 countries, including Iceland, the Netherlands, Ireland, and the United States.

About 80% of them tested positive for the virus after returning from Ischgl and at least 32 people from the resort cluster have died.

He accused authorities of being beholden to the interests of the local tourism industry in the Paznaun Valley, where Ischgl is located. Numerous infections allegedly were acquired in cramped apres-ski bars where tourists often party the night away after a day on the slopes.

Kolba also placed some of the blame on Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, for declaring on March 13 that the valley would be placed under quarantine later that day, triggering the hasty departure of thousands of guests and seasonal workers.

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