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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Struggling Scandinavian carrier SAS gets $700m loan

Ailing Scandinavian airline SAS, which filed for bankruptcy protection in the United States in early July, said Sunday it had secured a 700-million-dollar loan.

Struggling Scandinavian carrier SAS gets $700m loan

The move follows a crippling 15-day pilot strike, also in July, that cost the carrier between $9 and $12 million a day.

The pilots were protesting against salary cuts demanded by management as part of a restructuring plan aimed at ensuring the survival of the company.

READ ALSO: SAS strike affected 380,000 passengers in July

SAS said it has entered “into a debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing credit agreement for $700 million with funds managed by Apollo Global Management”.

SAS had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States and said the “DIP financing, along with cash generated from the company’s ongoing operations, enables SAS to continue meeting its obligations throughout the chapter 11 process”.

“With this financing, we will have a strong financial position to continue supporting our ongoing operations throughout our voluntary restructuring process in the US,” SAS board chairman Carsten Dilling said.

SAS management announced in February the savings plan to cut costs by 7.5 billion Swedish kronor ($700 million), dubbed “SAS Forward”, which was supplemented in June by a plan to increase capital by nearly one billion euros ($1.04 billion).

Denmark and Sweden are the biggest shareholders with 21.8 percent each.

“We can now focus entirely on accelerating the implementation our SAS FORWARD plan, and to continue our more than 75-year legacy of being the leading airline in Scandinavia.”

SAS employs around 7,000 people, mainly in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. It has suffered a string of losses since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020.