Corona hotspot: higher infection rate in Germany near Ischgl

Corona hotspot: higher infection rate in Germany near Ischgl

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Superspreader location: Proximity to Ischgl increases the corona infection rate

When the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus continued to spread across Europe, the ski resort of Ischgl in Austria soon hit the headlines. Because the so-called "Ballermann of the Alps" is considered a corona hotspot, where numerous people from European countries have become infected. According to a new study, the geographical proximity to the Tyrolean town increases the infection rate.

At the beginning of March the weather in the Tyrolean Alps was mild and there was enough snow. Tourists came to Ischgl from all over Europe, especially for skiing and partying. But even when the first infections with the new corona virus became known, the place continued to be celebrated. As a result, the Austrian town developed into a super spreader location and became “Ground Zero” for the German corona distribution.

One of the main risk factors for a comparatively high infection rate

According to a communication from the Institute for the World Economy (IfW), the geographic proximity to Ischgl in Tyrol is apparently one of the main risk factors for a comparatively high infection rate in the population in Germany in the current corona pandemic.

Counties that are closer to the so-called superspreader location in Ischgl therefore systematically have higher infection rates than more distant ones.

According to the institute, other corona hotspots have no comparable influence on the infection process in Germany. Seen over time, the effect for Ischgl is more or less constant. This also shows that the lockdown worked.

The study was published under the title "Après-ski: The Spread of Coronavirus from Ischgl through Germany" in the "Covid Economics" series of the Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR).

The shorter travel distance increases the infection rate

"Even a ten percent shorter journey to Ischgl increases the infection rate by an average of nine percent," explains IfW President Gabriel Felbermayr.

"The other way around, this also means that if all German circles were as far away from Ischgl as the Vorpommern-Rügen district, there would be almost 50 percent fewer infections with the corona virus in Germany."

In an empirical study, Felbermayr, together with Julian Hinz and Sonali Chowdhry from the IfW Trade Policy Task Force, evaluated data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) from the 401 German counties and thus the importance of Ischgl as "ground zero" for the German corona Spread underpinned.

Lockdown measures have prevented the virus from spreading further

For comparison, the researchers also looked at the regions of Heinsberg and Mulhouse / Grand-Est on the German-French border, which were also badly affected by corona, but were unable to demonstrate empirically any comparable geographical influence on the infection process in Germany.

"It is particularly interesting that the distance to Ischgl does not become irrelevant for the observed cases over time," says Felbermayr.

According to the scientist, this suggests that the lockdown measures had effectively contributed to reducing mobility and preventing the virus from spreading further in the German federal states.

"After the initial infections caused by returning skiers, there was no further geographical spread."

Catholic culture seems to have an impact on the number of cases

However, the Ischgl example also shows that the rather slow reaction to the corona infections in Ischgl was fatal: As early as March 5, 2020, the first European country classified the ski resort as a risk area.

However, quarantine measures were only initiated nine days later and the complete lockdown followed even later. According to the IfW, data from March 20, 2020 show that a third of all cases in Denmark and one sixth of all cases in Sweden were attributable to Ischgl.

In addition to the geographical influence of Ischgl on the infection rate, the data reveal another remarkable factor: the proportion of the Catholic population.

"The Catholic culture seems to increase the number of cases - probably due to the many carnival celebrations in late February," says Felbermayr.

However, no other socio-demographic factors, such as the trade links to China, the age structure, the proportion of foreigners or a "home office index" can be demonstrated in the available data.

Tourism is an important factor in the spread of contagious diseases

According to the information, the counties and independent cities in Germany are affected very differently by the corona pandemic, both in terms of infection and mortality rates.

Ischgl's significant influence only applies to the infection rate and has no influence on mortality. This depends above all on the proportion of people over 65 and the number of hospital beds, according to the researchers.

As the communication says, the analysis underlines that international tourism is an important factor in the spread of infectious diseases.

Therefore, timely travel bans can restrict the transmission routes. Popular travel destinations such as Ischgl play a crucial role in such containment strategies because they can quickly develop into superspreader locations. (ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

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