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tv   Our World  BBC News  March 6, 2021 9:30pm-10:01pm GMT

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hello, this is bbc news. the headlines... pressure grows on the government over its pay offer to health service staff in england. hundreds of rangers fans gather outside the ibrox stadium in glasgow, despite lockdown rules — the team's on the verge of winning the scottish premiership. pope francis delivers an impassioned condemnation of extremism and violence, during the first ever papal visit to iraq. bill is amended as passed. the us senate passes president biden�*s 1.9 trillion
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dollar covid relief plan by a single vote. the duke and duchess of cambridge talk about the impact of the pandemic, in a special programme on the commonwealth. now on bbc news, our world. bbc europe editor katya adler explores what went wrong at the austrian resort of ischgl at the start of the global pandemic and what lessons can be learned. ischgl has long been known as the ibiza of the alps. but this time last year, the austrian ski resort became famous for something else. you always think the worst, especially when you get a positive result for covid. i even got people last day coming in, like coughing and spluttering and, like, saying... coughing sound. .."covid. " the authorities were slow to lockdown, with disastrous results. there was a whiff of the old jaws film and the mayor standing up
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in front of the tv cameras saying, "there's no shark here." ischgl became known as europe's covid ground zero. more than 6,000 people believe they were infected here in a matter of days. tourists returning home exported the virus around the world. now, the families of those affected are demanding justice. their allegation, that local authorities put wealth over health, keeping peak ski season going, even as the virus spread. one year on, what lessons can be learned from the unhappy story of ischgl? we need to be expecting all kinds of different viruses. this is going to happen again, i can assure you. is carefree mass tourism as we know it in europe a thing of the past?
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the ski season in ischgl in early 2020 seemed pretty much perfect. haraldur was one of the thousands enjoying the slopes. we actually had a really good week. ischgl is one of the best ski resorts in europe. it has good variety of slopes and good restaurants. after skiing, he and his friends grabbed a beer at the kitzloch — one of ischgl�*s famous apres ski bars. singing. hundreds of people just having fun, drinking and singing. there were a lot of different people from all over the world coming to ischgl. here in the kitzloch especially, a lot of danish, norwegian. of course a lot of german people are coming, also a lot from the united kingdom.
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but last february, ski hire workers spotted something strange. what we started to notice was that more and more customers who were bringing their skis back into the ski hire shop mid week, returning them early. it was more of a case of, well, this is weird, this is not normal, why is this? then you think well, my god, this is a pretty rough flu season now. come and check this out with me today, it's beautiful. but it wasn't the flu, it was covid. the virus had already been detected in the italian alps and elsewhere in austria. and it was now in ischgl. at that time, there was no coronavirus testing in the resort. for weeks, the authorities had closed their eyes to the spread of the virus. gunther zangerl is a leading local businessmen. he owns ischgl�*s cable car company.
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haraldur�*s friend arnie was one of those who became unwell in late february. he started feeling ill on wednesday. he thought had the flu. he thought he had the flu. we were not associating his illness with covid. on their return to iceland, both haraldur and arnie tested positive. i was not feeling ill or anything, so it was quite a shock because the news from italy wasn't great. a lot of people dying there, so you always think the worst, especially when you get a positive result from covid. in reykjavik, the test results landed on the desk of iceland's chief epidemiologist.
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for weeks, he'd been watching the spread of coronavirus from china, and now he knew he needed to act fast. i was excited, actually, because we had been preparing for this for many, many years. dr gudnason began to spot a pattern. the majority of iceland's positive cases had been on holiday in ischgl. austria appeared to have a much bigger covid problem than it realised. it was kind of strange to me at the time, that officially they were only a few cases reported from austria, the whole country, so something really didn't...didn't match, actually. doctor gudnason raised the alarm. he reported the covid cases to the european union and sent a direct message to his austrian counterparts. iceland's government then put ischgl in the same travel category as wuhan.
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it's what happens next that's still so hotly contested. the regional government in austria's tyrol province now faced a major crisis which would end up costing both lives and money. for years, that'd marketed ischgl as a good time ski resort. for years, they'd marketed ischgl as a good time ski resort. many local businesses rely on the ski season for their annual income. covid threatened all that. rather than lock ischgl down, the authorities issued a press release saying the icelandic tourists had probably caught covid on the plane home. i mean, that'sjust total nonsense. my friend was already sick while we were in ischgl, and there is no way that all of us got infected on the flight because we were
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not all travelling together. an e—mail sent at the time showed that local tyrol politicians hoped the plane theory would be enough to get ischgl "out of the firing line", as they wrote. the recipient of the e—mail subsequently leaked, but not denied, was herbert forster. so, ischgl wasn't shut down, and no warnings were issued to skiers. saturday the 7th march was changeover day. saturday the 7th of march was changeover day. thousands of tourists were going home, thousands more arriving. perfect conditions for a highly contagious virus to spread. british couple david mills
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and christine harris were amongst the new arrivals. the place was great, it was buzzing, it was like benidorm on steroids. when we got there we thought, whoa, this was so busy, wasn't it? yeah. it was absolutely jampacked. all of the bars were on, like, a strip, and we went to several of them. one of them was kitzloch. you couldn't get a drink. you couldn't get a drink, we walked right round the bar. that evening, the manager of the kitzloch bar bernhard zangerl, got a phone call. hours before, one of his staff had had a covid test after feeling ill. i was not watching on the phone and in the evening at about nine or ten o'clock, i had about maybe ten phone calls on my phone and i was thinking, 0k, what is going on? the test was positive. it meant the authorities could no longer put off taking action. yeah, of course it was a shock, we were sitting after this information with my
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colleagues at the bar, and we were yes, talking about the topic and everybody was kind of shocked. the kitzloch bar closed but only for 2h hours. they were told they could reopen once they'd disinfected the venue and changed over the staff. meanwhile, all the other bars in ischgl stayed open. the regional government put out another press release, stating the virus was unlikely to spread in bars. their actions had fatal consequences. dorte sittig's partner rudy had gone on holiday to ischgl from germany in march.
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in the days after he returned home, rudy began to feel ill. rudy thought he had picked up the flu. but it was covid. he was taken to hospital where his condition deteriorated.
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dorte was by rudi's side when his life support was turned off. now dorte wants justice. she's joined a class—action lawsuit on behalf of those who believe they got covid
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in ischgl, and the relatives of those who died. that is what peter kolba believes. he's a consumer rights lawyer leading efforts to hold the austrian government to account for what happened last year in ischgl, and, he says, to try and prevent anything like this from happening again. it's one of many cases being brought against governments worldwide for the way they have handled the pandemic.
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had the authorities closed a week earlier, after the icelandic tourists fell ill, thousands of people who arrived afterwards might have avoided infection. take nigel mallander. i did actually check the foreign office travel advice before going. the foreign office said, you know, it's ok to travel. so i thought, well, why not? i'll go and spend a few days skiing. the bars in ischgl were still
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wide open for business. it was chock—a—block full of people. there was no indication at all that there was any problem in the town, as far as coronavirus was concerned. it was just business as usual. on friday the 13th of march, eight days after the alarm had been raised by iceland, austria's chancellor, sebastian kurz, suddenly decided to bypass the local authorities in tyrol and take action himself. he announced that tourists had just one hour to leave ischgl. anyone left in the resort would be put in quarantine. what followed was utter chaos.
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i got a phone call about 2:00 in the afternoon from the young lady at my hotel, and she said, "you must get back here. "you must leave the valley. "the valley is being put into quarantine. "so you must get back here and leave." and i thought, well, that's novel! i was walking back towards the shop, and a friend of mine came screeching up in his car. it was like a die hard, bruce willis, like, handbrake turn, almost. "they're closing the whole valley in an hour, if you don't get out "now, you're not getting out at all, we need to get out, mate!" throw everything in a suitcase... l and it literally was throwing everything in a suitcase for you. and everybody was like, "what's happening, what's going on?" so you imagine people screaming off in their cars, like, driving at crowds, and just going for the main road. and that was the thing that got me.
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i thought, my god, people are seriously panicking now. they're seriously frightened. and then i had the whole chaos of the shop. people were just coming in, they didn't want to wait, they were just chucking their skis, one after the other, into the shop. didn't care what was happening. chucking their boots in, chucking their skis in. i was like, oh, my god. we had, like, 200 skis or so coming back that day, so i had no idea what was going on. i even got people on that last day coming in, like, coughing and spluttering, and were saying "covid." it wasn't just the tourists who were blindsided by the announcement. gunther sangherl was on the local covid management board.
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tourists packed onto buses and coaches. police roadblocks were set up to check who was leaving. but with no proper procedures in place, these checks led to huge delays. it took from 5:00 till, oh, about midnight, wasn't it? it was about a seven—hour coach trip. we were on that coach, it crawled down the mountain. it's absolutely guaranteed that anybody that wasn't infected with the virus when they left ischgl was probably absolutely drenched in it by the time they got down the valley. the botched evacuation was the last in a string of costly mistakes by the austrian authorities, local and national. it's thought that skiers returning home from ischgl
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and surrounding resorts exported covid to as many as 45 countries, as far—flung as brazil and australia. more than 6000 people believe they were infected, and at least 16 people died. within a week of getting back to britain, david, christine and nigel all had covid. nigel was taken to hospital. the girls were standing in the hallway. - and there was — there was a real feeling, - in my own mind, i thought... i'm walking out of my house now, and, i..| i didn't know whether i'd be coming back on my feet or in a box. - one year on, many of those caught up in the scarring events are still searching for answers.
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an independent enquiry details what it called "momentous miscalculations" in how the local authorities dealt with the virus at the time. some of those involved now face a criminal investigation. so did the authorities intentionally put wealth over health? the apparent lack of common sense in how they went about doing what they did, there was a whiff of the old jaws film and the mayor of amity island standing up in front of the tv cameras saying, "there's no shark here." this is vigorously denied by the authorities in ischgl and the wider tyrol region.
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dorte is clear on where she thinks responsibility lies. the global tourism industry has already lost more than $1 trillion so far as a result of the pandemic. in europe, austria has been one of the countries hardest hit. ischgl now lies deserted, but some here believe better times will soon return.
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even after this pandemic ends, will travel and tourism ever return to what we once thought was normal? tourism and travel of people from one place to another has been very open, and easy, within europe. and in my mind, that's probably played a big role. and the free movement of people from one area to another is going to be probably much more restrictive, i would think. from here we need to be expecting all kinds of different viruses. this is going to happen again, i can assure you. if it does happen again, europe will need to have a strategy, and a better early
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warning system in place. otherwise, the risk is more pain and more grief. the human tragedy of ischgl highlights dilemmas posed by covid to governments the world over. one year on, many of us are still left wondering, if calamity strikes again, can we now trust those in power to make tough decisions fast and put our welfare first?
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the weather isn't too bad out there. it's a little on the nippy side but it's settled, and that's how it's going to stay over the next two or three days. i suspect from wednesday, we will be talking about different things. gales and rain. but until then, the high pressure is with ours. pressure is with us. it's quite a cloudy high so admittedly we're not getting that much sunshine. but some of us did on saturday. there were some good lengthy sunny spells in a few areas. but i think as far as tonight is concerned, it is partly cloudy and where the skies clear and the winds fall light, we'll see a touch of frost. here in the north—west, the winds are blowing out of the south—west, pushing milder air into western scotland. so 5 degrees in stornoway. but you can see much of the country
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hovering around zero. a touch of frost in a few areas first thing on sunday morning. there will be some sunshine around but generally speaking it is quite a cloudy day, and on top of that you can see where the rain is there, across western and northern scotland. temperatures on sunday averaging around 7—8. on monday, the high pressure still with us, onlyjust.�*s it's a very weak high pressure but it is slipping southwards and it's allowing these weather fronts to sneak in, so i think the northern half of the uk, broadly speaking, will be cloudy on monday. the possibility of some rain into yorkshire. for the midlands southwards, monday should stay dry and there'll be some sunshine around as well. maybe up to around 11 degrees. tuesday could be quite bright if not sunny. temporarily we'll see drier air coming in from the south ahead of this low pressure. this is the beginning of the unsettled spell of weather heading our way. from wednesday onwards, the current thinking is we'll see a powerful jet stream.
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this is wednesday here. a powerfuljet stream making a beeline for the uk. quite often powerfuljet streams spin up large areas of low pressure, nasty areas of low pressure. you can see one such area of low pressure here on the forecast, just south of iceland, but also one approaching ireland. this will almost certainly mean gales around western coasts and quite possibly severe gales. so from wednesday onwards, a big change in the weather pattern. it'll turn very unsettled.
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