Did Austria hide the virus outbreak? Locals accused of covering up cases, ...

They call it 'Ibiza on ice' – an Alpine resort famed for its perfectly-groomed pistes where visitors ski all day, and raucous bars where they party all night. 

By summer, Ischgl is a small town of around 1,600 residents in the Tyrol region of Austria. 

But when the snow comes, it transforms into what the local tourist board calls 'white winter's dream', a haven for schnapps-fuelled adrenaline junkies from across the world. 

There are an astonishing one million overnight stays in its quaint wooden hotels and chalets each year. Visitors pack bars and restaurants and crowd into public spaces for outdoor concerts by the likes of Elton John, Robbie Williams and Mariah Carey. 

And therein lies a problem. 

Ischgl is known as 'Ibiza on ice' ¿ an Alpine resort famed for its perfectly-groomed pistes where visitors ski all day, and raucous bars where they party all night

Ischgl is known as 'Ibiza on ice' – an Alpine resort famed for its perfectly-groomed pistes where visitors ski all day, and raucous bars where they party all night

For in today's climate of fear, Ischgl's main selling point is suddenly a curse. And its culture of decadence has sparked an ugly scandal that has turned winter's dream into a nightmare. 

There is growing evidence that this picture-postcard town is a sort of Ground Zero for the European coronavirus crisis; the source of multiple outbreaks which have already killed thousands and brought the continent to a halt. 

To blame (at least in part) are the local authorities, who appear to have deliberately underplayed – or even sought to cover up – the fact that the virus has for some time been infecting both the resort's workers and tourists. 

On Tuesday, Austria's public prosecutors opened an investigation into claims that a suspected case was illegally hushed-up in late February, as part of a bungled plot to prevent Ischgl's hoteliers, lift operators, shopkeepers and bar owners from missing out on tourists' cash. 

The popular resort, in the province of Tyrol, Austria is believed to be Ground Zero for the coronavirus outbreak in Europe

The popular resort, in the province of Tyrol, Austria is believed to be Ground Zero for the coronavirus outbreak in Europe

An unnamed venue is suspected of 'recklessly endangering people through infectious disease' by failing to report that a member of its staff was taken seriously ill with coronavirus symptoms. 

There is also mounting anger at local health bosses who issued PR statements brazenly claiming that all was well even after March 7, when a barman at Kitzloch – the town's busiest apres-ski venue – formally tested positive for coronavirus. 

Resort bosses refused to tell bars and nightclubs to close for another three days. 

They decided to keep the resort's hotels and ski lifts running for even longer, seemingly due to a scandalous mixture of greed and incompetence. 

Ischgl did not fully close down until March 15 – more than ten days after the Icelandic government had formally raised the alarm with Austria's government about the number of its holidaymakers who had fallen ill after staying there. 

Yesterday, it was even claimed that the killer virus could have been doing the rounds of Ischgl since the middle of January. 

The number of infections in Ischgl  is double that of Vienna, the country's capital, which has a population of 2 million

The number of infections in Ischgl  is double that of Vienna, the country's capital, which has a population of 2 million

Daren Bland, an IT consultant from East Sussex, told the Daily Telegraph that he and three friends – two from Denmark and one from the US – were all struck down with a mystery illness after visiting the resort between the 15th and 19th of that month. 

Mr Bland, 50, then reportedly passed the virus to his wife and two children, one of whom was off school for a fortnight. It is then said to have spread throughout the local community in Maresfield, a village near Tunbridge Wells, with many children absenting themselves from schools. 

It should be stressed that the family has not yet received tests that will establish whether they did indeed contract coronavirus, which was not formally detected in the UK until January 29. 

The earliest confirmed example of transmission within Britain was not until February 28. Were such tests to prove positive, however, it would add weight to suggestions (raised in an

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