Danish ski tourists travel to locked-down Austria under pretence of work: report

Tourists from Denmark have travelled to Austria stating work purposes – enabling them to enter the country under Covid-19 restrictions – when their actual intentions are to party at ski resorts, according to a report.

Danish ski tourists travel to locked-down Austria under pretence of work: report
Illustration photo. Leonhard Foeger/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

Danes and other foreign nationals have circumvented Austria’s coronavirus entry restrictions in order to use the country’s near-empty ski slopes and gather in breach of rules, according to Danish public service broadcaster DR.

Austria currently has a de facto ban on foreign tourists entering the country for skiing, but nationals of Denmark and other countries have entered the Alpine land by registering as work seekers, according to the report.

Helmut Mall, the mayor in Tyrolian ski resort town Sankt Anton, told DR that he could not put an exact number on the amount of tourists who had entered the region in this manner for skiing, but said there were around 300 seasonal workers in the town including “a good number of Danes”.

“Since Christmas, more and more foreigners have come here. Around 10-15 per day,” Mall said.

“They say they are looking for seasonal work. But Austria is closed down because of corona. Ski tourism has been left fallow. There’s no work to look for here,” he added.

According to the report, visitors have been observed using the ski slopes, even though only local Austrian residents are currently permitted to use them.

“You can find current pictures on social media where 30-40 young people are partying illegally,” the mayor told DR.

Local Austrian newspaper Tiroler Tageszeitung has meanwhile reported that British, Swedish and Danish nationals are currently staying in Sankt Anton.

The issue is already causing anger in Tyrol, which is reportedly one of the most hardest-hit in Austria by mutated, more infectious forms of Covid-19.

“Young Swedes, Danes and Brits are having apres-ski parties in Sankt Anton. And we are naively guessing at how the B117 and South African variants have been able to spread in Austria,” journalist Isabelle Daniel tweeted.

Local authorities are also being criticised in the area, in which the resort town of Ischgl – an epicentre of the early stages of the European outbreak of Covid-19 last year – is also located.

“Question for the interior ministry: How often have you checked whether the lockdown is being complied with in Tyrol and Vorarlberg? How many fines have been issued? The mayor of Sankt Anton apparently knows about Brits with false address registrations and hotels that are open. Farce!,” journalist Jakob Winter tweeted.

Travelling within the EU for work purposes is legal under the EU’s free movement laws. DR’s report suggests that British nationals in Tyrol are likely to have arrived prior to the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31st 2020.

It is possible to register a secondary residence in Sankt Anton with a signed confirmation from a local landlord and then register as seeking work, according to the report. As such, travel into Austria for work purposes is possible, the broadcaster writes. Entry quarantine rules must still be observed. Hotels are required to remain closed under current restrictions.

Some of the around 300 foreign seasonal workers currently registered in Sankt Anton arrived before Christmas, Mall noted.

“At that time we thought that ski tourism would reopen in January. Others came once it became clear the lockdown would continue,” he told DR.

“I would like to say to young Danes who want to go skiing in the Alps: Stay home! You are more than welcome once we have put the pandemic behind us,” he also said.

READ ALSO: Denmark extends UAE flight ban by one week

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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”