How an Austrian ski resort helped coronavirus spread across Europe

Henrik Lerfeldt has fond memories of Kitzloch, a popular restaurant and bar in the Austrian ski resort town of Ischgl, where he partied several nights while on vacation three weeks ago.

The 56-year-old Dane, who spoke to CNN from self-quarantine at his home 50 miles from Copenhagen last week, said that his time in Kitzloch in the Austrian province of Tyrol was the way “after-ski” is supposed to be. “Lots of people, lots of drinks, and nice waiters happy to serve you more.”

Hundreds of cases:Ā Four days after his return home, Lerfeldt tested positive for theĀ coronavirus, as did one of his friends he was traveling with. But they are just two among hundreds of people from all over Europe whose infections are traced back to Ischgl, some of them directly to Kitzloch, according to European authorities.

Partying continued:Ā Despite an official warning from the Icelandic government on March 4 that a group of its nationals had contracted coronavirus in Ischgl, Austrian authorities allowed ski tourism — and the partying that goes with it — to continue for another nine days before fully quarantining the resort on March 13. Bars in Ischgl were closed on March 10.

Even after a bartender tested positive for the virus, the medical authority of Tyrol — where ski tourism is one of the biggest economic drivers — reiteratedĀ in a news releaseĀ on March 8 that there was “no reason to worry.”

In a statement emailed to CNN, the provincial government denied it had dragged its feet, saying it acted in a timely and efficient manner.

But a clearer picture emerged when officials worked out what was going on in some of Ischgl’s tightly packed bars and clubs.

How an Austrian ski resort helped coronavirus spread across Europe

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