By Simon Albrecht
Tourists are now demanding compensation from the Alpine Republic because Tyrol allegedly became the virus slingshot for Europe through negligence and abuse of authority. The story began as thousands of infected ski tourists took the corona virus home with them. Austria thus became an international virus exporter – especially to Germany.
The consequences and damage have so far been borne by the infected ski tourists alone. The tourists concerned come from many countries: Great Britain, Nordic countries, USA, Russia and the United Arab Emirates. “Three holidaymakers from Ischgl have already been confirmed dead, while compensation for the surviving families remain uncleared.,” Kolba reports. Ischgl the Winter-city of Europe is the dream of all ski lovers and the Silvretta Arena covered with artificial snow are by no means the only main attraction of the tourist village in the Tyrolean Paznaun valley.
It is the après-ski bars like the “Kitzloch” that have made Ischgl popular throughout Europe. But the “Ballermann of the Alps” developed into a virus slingshot for holidaymakers from all over Europe in March 2020. According to plans of the Association for the Protection of Consumer Interests in Vienna. “Our aim is to bring an action for damages against the Republic of Austria”, Peter Kolba, head of the consumer protection association, told Handelsblatt.
The planned chain-suit is directed against the federal authorities, as the Tyrolean health system is also under their jurisdiction. “We already have 4500 affected persons who have registered with their data on ski resorts. Out of these, 2800 come from Germany,” reports the doctor of law. A staff of a laundry in Bavaria was so badly affected that the company’s operations could not be maintained. “People with symptoms of the coronavirus have a right to compensation, which must be determined by medical experts,” Kolba says. Those affected can join the consumer protection association in Vienna for an annual fee of 30 euros, which then represents their rights through the chain-suit.
Main Accusation remains: Negligence and Abuse of Authority – Preparations for the class action suit against Austria are in full swing. “Presently, more than 500 affected persons have already authorized us to represent their interests,” Kolba reports. The former member of the National Council has been a battle-hardened consumer protectionist for decades. Meanwhile, the Tyrolean provincial government welcomes the criminal complaint of the consumer protection agency. “It is good that anyone can submit statements of facts to the public prosecutor’s office and that this will be checked”, said a spokeswoman for Governor Platter upon request. The mayor of Ischgl, Werner Kurz, pleads innocent. “We have dealt with everything to the best of our knowledge and belief and have implemented all instructions and regulations of the authorities immediately,” the head of the municipality told ORF and the Austrian news agency APA.
In order to clarify the exact facts of the case, the consumer protection association filed a criminal complaint with the Innsbruck public prosecutor’s office at the end of March. The criminal complaint is directed against Tyrol with its Governor Günther Platter (ÖVP), the Health Councillor Bernhard Tilg (ÖVP), the Mayor of Ischgl Werner Kurz (ÖVP), but also against cable car companies such as the Silvretta cable car in Ischgl or the operator of the now notorious bar “Kitzloch”.