Monday, September 25, 2023

Trial begins over COVID outbreak in Alpine ski resort

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Maria Sladek
Maria Sladek
Maria Sladek is an Austrian-based journalist with over five years of experience reporting on local and national news. She holds a degree in journalism from the University of Vienna and has worked for several well-respected Austrian newspapers. Maria is known for her in-depth reporting and ability to uncover hidden stories, and she has received several awards for her work. She is dedicated to delivering accurate and fair journalism to her readers and is highly respected in the industry for her professionalism and integrity.

A civil trial opened over the government’s handling of a coronavirus outbreak at an Alpine ski resort during the early stages of the pandemic that relatives say resulted in unnecessary infections and deaths.

Sieglinde and Ullrich Schopf, the widow and son of a 72-year-old Austrian man who died of COVID-19 after becoming infected in Ischgl, are seeking about 100,000 euros ($117,000) compensation from the government. Their is seen as a test case for a larger class action suit involving hundreds of people who fell ill with COVID-19 following a trip to the Paznaun valley in February and March 2020.

The family is supported by Austria’s Consumer Protection Association, which said it is open to a negotiated settlement.

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

“Stopping people from leaving and arriving in the Paznaun valley or at least issuing a travel warning — the authorities failed to do that,” said Alexander Klauser, a lawyer representing the Schopf family. “Thousands of people left the Paznaun valley unhindered, thousands of people arrived without a clue that they were in danger.”

An independent commission last year concluded that authorities in the Tyrol region acted too slowly to shut down ski resorts in the valley after it became clear they were dealing with one of Europe’s first coronavirus outbreaks in March. But the panel didn’t find evidence that political or business pressure played a role in the decisions.

Klauser, the lawyer, said that even after authorities issued a directive to close apres-ski bars it wasn’t enforced strongly enough.

“Open air mass gatherings which were forbidden according to the directive continued,” he said. “The police just watched on without doing anything.”

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