Austria: How did the South African coronavirus mutation come to Tyrol?

Austria: How did the South African coronavirus mutation come to Tyrol?
A ambulance on the Austrian-German border. Photo: Christof STACHE / AFP
Tyrol is a long way from South Africa, leading many to question how the variant made it to the mountainous region and caused “Europe’s largest outbreak”.

The outbreak of the coronavirus variant first detected in South Africa in the Austrian state of Tyrol has shuttered borders – both inside and outside Austria. 

The Austrian government has declared state of Tyrol as a “restricted zone” due to the coronavirus mutation. 

From Friday, February 12th, nobody will be allowed to leave the state without a negative test. 

READ MORE: Austria imposes statewide isolation order in Tyrol due to coronavirus variant 

The measure will be in place for ten days, although it can be extended. Austrian authorities are investigating possible leads, however

According to Austrian media, “one of the largest police operations in recent years is underway” as a result of the declaration. 

“Europe's largest outbreak”

“The outbreak of the South African variant in Tyrol is the biggest currently known of in the European Union,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told a press conference when announcing the measures. 

The majority of the cases are in the district of Schwaz, where a mass testing programme will now be carried out.

How did the mutation make it to Austria? 

Initially, the finger was pointed at winter sports enthusiasts. 

Tyrol came under the spotlight after reports emerged in recent weeks of scores of foreign skiers using loopholes in Austria's coronavirus rules to travel to the country's renowned ski resorts, many of them in Tyrol.

Austria's government allowed ski lifts to reopen just before Christmas, maintaining that outdoor sports posed little transmission risk.

This week however the government said this week there was no evidence to support that claim.

Another rumour which has been dismissed by the government is that golfers in Zillertal who took a private plane to play golf in South Africa have brought the mutation to Tyrol.

Tyrol Greens politician Gebi Mair blamed Germany for the outbreak, saying there was evidence that the mutation entered from southern Bavaria. 

Tyrol authorities said on Friday they have several ‘promising leads’ but that confirmation could not be issued yet. 

 


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