“There were errors of judgement that had consequences,” Ronald Rohrer, Head of the commission, told a press conference in Innsbruck, the capital of Tyrol state.
The mishandling has been blamed for allowing sick tourists to carry the virus to their respective home countries at a time when much of Europe was yet to see cases, and before the World Health Organisation had declared the coronavirus a pandemic.
‘From 8 March, a correct assessment should have led to the closing of bars, the stopping of ski lifts and orderly management of departures’, the report found.
Instead, after a barkeeper in Ischgl tested positive for Covid-19 on 7 March, tourists were not informed. Skiing and partying continued for several days until a complete and immediate lockdown of Ischgl and Sankt Anton, a nearby ski resort, were announced on 13 March.
Over 6,000 tourists contracted the virus
Tourists were forced to evacuate within hours, and in the end more than 6,000 people from 45 countries, including Britain, the US and Germany, said they contracted Covid-19 on their holiday.
The report, based on an investigation by an expert commission set up by the state government, also found mistakes in how the quarantine was announced by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, calling it ‘impromptu and without consideration for the necessary preparation’.
Misinformation prompts panicked reaction
“It provoked a panicked reaction among holidaymakers, and traffic chaos ensued,” the report said.
The two press releases, one of which called the risk of infection ‘rather unlikely’, despite the fact that the barkeeper worked in a crammed apres-ski bar frequented by more than 200 tourists, were ‘false’ and ‘bad’.
Rohrer said this was ‘a wrong decision, from an epidemiological perspective’, The Guardian reported.
He also criticised the Tyrolean health authorities for claiming that a group of Icelandic tourists who had visited Ischgl and subsequently tested positive for Covid-19 back in Reykjavik had most likely caught the virus on their flight home, and not in the resort.
Three German survivors and the family of an Austrian man who died from the coronavirus after holidaying in Ischgl are claiming damages of between €12,000 and €100,000 from the Austrian authorities.
In September, Austria banned apres-ski parties in an effort to slow the spread of Covid-19.