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Austrian ski resort authorities will not face charges over Covid outbreak

Austrian prosecutors ended an 18-month investigation into the coronavirus outbreak in the ski resort of Ischgl in early 2020 – one of the first super-spreaders of the pandemic in Europe.

Innsbruck state prosecutors have concluded a criminal liability investigation into the outbreak without charges of wrongdoing against authorities in Ischgl, they said in a statement Wednesday.

This finding offers relief to hoteliers and business owners in Austria ski areas in crisis. As the country faces its worst wave of Covid-19 infections, it faces delays in reopening resorts and it is uncertain whether foreign visitors will be allowed in.

As of Monday, Austria is once again under a national lockdown as it battles to contain a surge in Covid cases, and the government is planning Mandatory vaccination plan from the beginning of next year. Ischgl is expected to open its lifts fully on Thursday, with a celebratory weekend planned to mark its return from the cancellation of the 2020-21 season.

Ischgl has become the go-to word for the ski industry during the pandemic.

The village, known for its rowdy ski scene, has become a viral hotspot as its bars and runs remained open despite a growing number of sick people in February and March 2020. That led to a wave of infections that went beyond Austria’s borders as holidaymakers. back from the mountainside.

Hundreds of the earliest infections in Germany were traced back to the tiny town in Austria’s western Tyrol region. Icelandic epidemiologists say Ischgl was the sole source of their country’s first wave of infections. Half of the initial cases in Norway came from the trails there, a third in Denmark and a sixth in Sweden, according to health officials in these countries. healthcare in these countries.

Research by epidemiologists at the University of Innsbruck, who tested 80 percent of the population in Ischgl, found that 45 percent of residents contracted the coronavirus during the first wave of the pandemic, the highest level of contagion reported. detected per capita in any study at that site worldwide.

“There is no evidence that [authorities] Innsbruck prosecutors said Wednesday it is possible to cause or to refuse to do something that could lead to an increased risk of infection.

The investigation looks into allegations that officials – including the county governor and the mayor of Ischgl – pushed to keep the resort’s facilities open amid concerns about the economic impact of the virus. tourist season restriction. Skiing is big business in Austria, according to research by Dutch bank ING: winter sports contribute a roughly equal share to the economy as the car industry in Germany.

Prosecutors said they reviewed more than 15,000 pages of evidence and conducted 27 interviews. The investigation was completed in May but has so far only been reviewed by high-level prosecutors and the Austrian Ministry of Justice.

An earlier government investigation into events at Ischgl found that officials mismanaged the outbreak service. It concluded that the ski lifts should have closed earlier and that communication with tourists was chaotic.

A separation civil case against the Ischgl administration, backed by the Austrian consumer protection association, is taking place in Vienna.

Austria reported a seven-day average of 155 new Covid cases per 100,000 residents on Wednesday, the second-highest infection rate in Europe, according to Johns Hopkins University. About 30% of the population is still not received their first vaccine.

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