Ski resorts contributed to major spread of coronavirus in Europe, top EU doctor says

Will Taylor
News Reporter
Skiers on holiday are thought to have become infected at resorts in Europe and then brought the virus back to their home countries. (Jarry/Tripelon/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Ski resorts likely contributed to the wide spread of coronavirus in Europe, an EU expert has said.

Andrea Ammon, director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, told The Guardian that a week when skiers returned home after travelling to alpine slopes will be seen as a key moment in the continent’s outbreak.

European countries are among the worst hit, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, with only the US having a more severe death toll than the UK, Italy, France and Spain.

Speaking to The Guardian, Ammon said skiers would have come back from their breaks in the first week of March.

Andrea Ammon said the return of ski tourists to their home countries in March will be seen as a key moment in Europe's outbreak. (Riccardo De Luca/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

“Because at that time we saw that new cases all over Europe (and) actually (they) had been in the skiing places in the Alps, in Italy, Austria.

“I mean this is a crowded place, the ski resorts, and then you have these cabins that you go up the mountain and these are really crammed. Yeah, it’s just perfect for such a virus.

“I mean, I am pretty sure that this contributed to the wide spread in Europe.”

Earlier in the outbreak, heavy focus was cast on ski resorts being behind some of the initial cases seen in the continent.

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Steve Walsh, from Hove in East Sussex, was described as a “super-spreader” in media reports after it emerged five other Britons had been infected at a French ski chalet he stayed at.

At the time, he was reportedly linked to 11 other cases.

Walsh said he later found out he had been exposed to a confirmed case, contacted health authorities and was quarantined in hospital.

The Austrian ski resort of Ischgl and surrounding areas were identified as the hotspot where hundreds of visitors from countries including Germany, Norway and Iceland became infected.

In April, more than 600 infections in Austria were linked to the area, a health official said, and possibly twice as many people who visited from outside the country could have been affected.

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