This episode first aired on Today in Focus, the Guardian’s global daily news podcast.
Nigel Mallender tells Rachel Humphreys about the holiday he took at the Austrian ski resort of Ischgl in March. He had been anticipating a fun-filled week of skiing and socialising with friends in one of the many bars that has given the resort the moniker “Ibiza on ice”. But just four days later, Austria’s chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, announced that the entire Paznaun valley would be quarantined “with immediate effect” after the authorities became aware of cases of Covid-19. What happened next, Mallender says, was like a scene from a bad disaster film: thousands of tourists packed into buses and cars trying to leave the valley. Days later, the 56-year-old, from Farnborough in the UK, was in hospital with Covid-19.
Guardian Berlin bureau chief Philip Oltermann discusses whether the Austrian authorities should have reacted more quickly to the outbreak. At least 28 people who visited Ischgl in late February and early March died of Covid-19. By mid-March, it was clear that tourists travelling in and out of the Paznaun valley had been the key accelerators behind the first wave of the virus on the European continent. Now, at least 6,000 people who say they caught coronavirus in Ischgl have joined a class action.
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