Austria hears first lawsuit over ski resort Covid outbreak

The Tyrolean ski resort of Ischgl was the site of a notorious outbreak of coronavirus in March 2020

The first civil lawsuit began in a court in Vienna on Friday over a notorious outbreak of coronavirus at a popular ski resort last year, where thousands of people from 45 countries claim to have become infected.

The case is the first of 15 lawsuits filed by plaintiffs from Austria and Germany, accusing the authorities of not responding quickly enough to Covid-19 outbreaks in Ischgl and other resorts in the province of Tyrol.

Sieglinde was not present in Vienna’s Palace of Justice on Friday but her son Ulrich sat alongside the legal team bringing their case, with a swarm of media filming and photographing the participants before the hearing got under way.

He added that Ulrich felt “rage” at those he held responsible for his father’s death and that his four-year-old son now had to grow up without a grandfather.

The Schopf family is suing the Republic of Austria for 100,000 euros ($120,000).

He added he had the impression that authorities wanted to “brush the whole thing under the carpet”.

Judge Catrin Aigner closed Friday’s hearing after more than three hours, rejecting requests from the plaintiff’s lawyers to call witnesses.

Klauser had wanted to question witnesses over the various official shortcomings that the plaintiffs say allowed Ischgl and the surrounding area to become a virus hotspot.

Klauser asked why the health ministry in Vienna did not seal off the valley around Ischgl earlier, or at least put out a travel warning for the area.

– ‘Shattered’ –

Schopf’s widow has said her husband, a retired journalist and avid skier, caught the virus during the panicked evacuation by bus, crammed with other tourists who were sneezing and coughing.

“I can’t forgive myself, because in the end, I sent him to his death,” as she had encouraged him to take the break, she said.

Of the 6,000 people who claim to have contracted the virus in Ischgl and the surrounding area, five percent suffer from symptoms of long Covid, including headaches, sleep disturbance and shortness of breath, the VSV association said. In total, 32 people have died.

Five people, including four local officials, have been placed under investigation in Innsbruck over the outbreak but there is no indication whether criminal charges will eventually be filed.

Originally published as Austria hears first lawsuit over ski resort Covid outbreak

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