Austrian police have found 96 foreigners, including Australians, at one of the country’s top ski resorts — potentially putting them in breach of Austria’s pandemic-related rules on entering the country as well as its national lockdown.
- Police said Britons, Danes, Swedes and other European nationals were also among those fined
- Austria is currently in its third national lockdown since the start of the pandemic
- Stricter rules were put in place to discourage skiers, but loopholes have emerged
Helmut Mall, the mayor of St Anton am Arlberg, said this week that dozens of young tourists from across Europe had recently come to his town, circumventing lockdown rules under which ski lifts are open but hotels are closed to tourists.
“Among others Britons, Danes, Swedes, Romanians, Germans, Australians, Irish people and Poles were checked and fined,” the police force of the western province of Tyrol said in a statement.
The operation was carried out on Friday evening local time with 15 officers, and those found in breach face fines of up to 2,180 euros ($3,462), the statement said.
Austria, a country of just under 9 million people, has recorded 413,208 cases and 7,703 deaths in the pandemic so far.
Daily new cases have dropped to roughly 1,500 from a peak of more than 9,000 in November but are now falling only slowly.
It has been in its third national lockdown since December 26, with all non-essential shops closed.
In addition, from December 19 to January 10 even stricter rules on entering the country were put in place, largely to discourage skiers. Arrivals from almost every country in Europe were supposed to go into quarantine.
In recent weeks, however, the public has been stunned to learn of loopholes, often involving work or training.
Although regular skiers cannot stay overnight at a resort, coronavirus clusters emerged at ski teacher training courses, which were allowed to be held for visitors from across Europe.
Tourist accommodation is only available to business travellers, and Mr Mall said new arrivals to St Anton have registered a local address saying they are looking for work even though there are no jobs available.
The police did not say exactly what offences had been committed, but said the foreigners had breached lockdown and immigration regulations as well as the law on registering an address.