A GROUP of British ski instructors have been blamed for an outbreak of coronavirus in the Austrian Alps following weeks of non-stop partying.
The group of 60 arrived just before Christmas to train as instructors in the resort and travelled just as details of the mutant UK strain emerged.
⚠️ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates
The group of British ski instructors at the Tyrolean Ski School in Austria were blamed for the outbreakCredit: Alamy
Officials said the cluster had emerged in the town of Jochberg in the Tyrol and the town was being placed into a strict lockdown with all 1500 residents ordered to be tested.
But one Brit instructor there told The Sun: ”It’s been a non stop party since this lot arrived.
“There has been lots of mixing between households and you can forget any social distancing.
”The Brits are all in three houses and it is spreading like wildfire between all of them as they are not sticking to isolation rules.
”Some people have been quite ill but most even though they have symptoms aren’t suffering too badly and are still partying.”
Austria banned all flights from the UK on December 22 in a bid to control the spread of the virus and the British group arrived four days earlier.
They were there to train at the Tyrolean Ski Instructor School in the town but because of the virus no classes have been taking place.
Locals expressed outrage that the group were even allowed to travel to Austria and are furious they have breached isolation regulations.
Florian Klenk said: ”Workers from eastern Europe have not been allowed to go home for weeks – or only under the strictest conditions – but ski teachers from around Europe are allowed to come to Tyrol for training and get infected? This just beggars belief.”
Ski resorts were allowed to open as of Christmas Eve but hotels remain closed to all but business travel, meaning only people who live close enough to a resort can go for the day.
Austria also introduced a quarantine rule for arrivals from almost every European country over the holiday period, at least partly to put off skiers from neighbouring countries who might have been tempted by the open lifts.
In a statement Elmar Rizzoli, head of Austria’s coronavirus task force said:”The first slight symptoms in this connection were recorded in the majority of the affected people on January 3rd.
“As a result of these and subsequent positive antigen test results, further investigations were initiated after the abnormalities in the PCR test were known.
”It then turned out that they were people of different origins – mostly British citizens. They are staying in Tyrol for professional purposes as part of a ski instructor training or further education – the last travellers arrived in Tyrol on December 18th.”
The managing director of the Tyrolean Ski Instructors Association, Christian Abenthung, said the infected Brits had not taken part in any training course run by the Tyrolean Ski Instructors Association or registered for a training course.
Ski lessons are currently severely restricted (only for people from one household) and, for professional purposes, only permitted for people who have completed a ski instructor’s training, underlined the withdrawal.
Austria has had 382,000 cases of Covid with 6,747 deaths and the ski resort of Ischgl has been pinpointed as one of the main sources for the spread of the bug last winter due to its popularity with skiers from all over Europe.
Just before the New Year, hundreds of Brit tourists fled a luxury Swiss ski resort under the cover of darkness after being forced into Covid quarantine.
The cloak and dagger operation came after the authorities in Verbier announced all arrivals from the UK would have to isolate due to the mutant strain of the virus.
The measures led to 200 of the 420 or so “angry” Brits forced to isolate sneaking out of the town rather than stay cooped up in cramped hotel rooms, SonntagsZeitung newspaper reported.
The group of 60 Brits at the ski school were blamed for the outbreak following weeks of non-stop partyingCredit: Twitter