British skiers with coronavirus suffering ‘most aggressive strain of illness’

Three British skiers hospitalised with coronavirus are thought to be suffering from an "aggressive strain spreading from Italy" – and could be quarantined with members of their holiday group who are not currently ill.

The skiers are all part of a group of 10 who had been staying in Saalbach, Austria, which is currently hosting the Alpine Skiing World Cup.

It is reported that they had been in Italy before moving on to the Austrian Alpine resort town.

It was announced on Monday night that the whole of Italy will be closed off to combat the spread of the coronavirus in a drastic government plan.

Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte made the announcement this evening – as the disease's death toll in the country approaches 500 .

But the three men, aged 61, 49 and 41 have now all been hospitalised in Salzburg after testing positive for the bug.

Group-member John Groake, 51, an IT security manager from Leeds, reportedly told Daily Mail the three men will now be moved back in with the other members of their group – who are not currently ill.

Mr Groake said: "There is an ambulance outside. We originally said no to being moved.

"We are moving to a house with double rooms. The positive and negative people will be split into in different bedrooms but we don't know who's got it or not.

"I don't want to share with someone just to find out they have [coronavirus].

"It's really really s*** honestly."

The group were reportedly given 15 minutes to pack up before an ambulance arrived to take them 30 minutes to Piesendorf.

Dr Richard Greil, who is head of the department at the Salzburg Landeskliniken hospital dealing with quarantined patients in the area, including the three British tourists, said: "The first British man who was hospitalised, a 61-year-old, is the more seriously ill of the three but he is definitely not acute.

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"The two other British men, aged 44 and 49, have only the very mildest of symptoms even though they are technically also infected.

"Under normal circumstances, it would not be even necessary to move him to the hospital but in order to avoid a panic they have been taken to our facility.

"As you can imagine the other guests and staff would not be happy about having infected people there."

He stressed, however, that under normal circumstances, even though they tested positive, the lack of any significant symptoms would mean house quarantine would have been satisfactory.

He said the hospital had special filtration systems to provide the highest security standards to prevent the infection spreading, and said that this would put people's minds at rest.

Dr Greil, managing the quarantine of the three Brits, said: "The group had previously been staying in Italy and had returned there from holiday, deciding to continue their holiday at the Austrian hotel.

"It is the case at the moment that almost all of the infections we are finding are coming from Italy."

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He added that it is currently thought there is a stronger variant of the virus spreading in Italy, known as the so-called 'L' variant.

But he stressed there was currently no concrete evidence for this and that it was only speculation.

He said: "The fact is that it is completely out of control down there."

Austrian officials said earlier they were trying to work out a way to fly the British group back home but that it was difficult because most airlines were not prepared to take them – even though they showed no signs of the disease.

As the UK is not arranging special flights to remove infected tourists, the alternative would mean they had to wait the two-week quarantine period, which Austrian officials want to avoid in the heart of the tourist season.

The second option they said they were considering was to set up a quarantine area for suspected infected holidaymakers.

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But, a statement by local council leader Bernhard Gratz saying they were trying to arrange a charter flight to remove them from the tourist area or set up a quarantine zone was later rejected by Salzburg regional spokesman Franz Wieser.

He said there would be no charter flights organised to remove sick people from the region and there would also be no specialist quarantine circles set up.

The mayor of Saalbach-Hinterglemm, Alois Hasenauer, said they were keen to make sure there was "no hysteria and no panic".

He also said that there had been some cancellations since news of the infection at the resort was made public, but not many.

Saalbach-Hinterglemm is one of the top ski resorts in the Austrian Alps, which has been consistently expanded and modernised and now has 270 kilometres (167 miles) of slopes and more than 70 lifts.

It lies in the Glemmtal valley which is also where the hotel is that the British group is quarantined in, which is about 85 kilometres (53 miles) from Salzburg.

  • Coronavirus

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