BERLIN — Half a year after a major coronavirus outbreak at an Austrian ski resort infected thousands and contributed to the virus’s spread across Europe, the Austrian government is facing civil lawsuits over its response.
Austria’s Consumer Protection Association, known as the VSV, said Wednesday that authorities may have deliberately slowed down their response to the outbreak in Ischgl to avoid an immediate shutdown of the local economy.
A quarter of all jobs depend on tourism in that part of Austria. Ischgl, population 1,600, draws about half a million travelers each winter, making it one of the most popular destinations in the Alps.
Officials confirmed the first case in the resort only days after Iceland had raised alarm over a potential mass spreading event there. Tourists had tested positive for the virus in Iceland after returning from the Austrian resort in early March.
But even after Ischgl confirmed its own first case, the regional state medical authority said widespread transmission was “rather unlikely.”
Health experts suspect that by then, the virus may have already been spreading in Ischgl for one month. According to the VSV, more than 6,000 infections in almost 50 nations may be directly linked to Ischgl.
Austrian government officials in the region have rejected accusations that they prioritized their economy over public health. The VSV said Wednesday that it is also preparing a class-action suit, according to Reuters.