The UK’s coronavirus patient zero is an ‘IT consultant who caught the killer bug at an Austrian ski party’ and started spreading it here weeks earlier than was thought.
Daren Bland from Maresfield, East Sussex, is understood to have infected his wife Sarah and children after returning from Ischgl in mid January.
The 50-year-old had been there with three friends from January 15 to 19, with the others travelling home – two to Denmark and one to Minnesota in the US – sick.
Prosecutors are investigating the destination for possible negligence due to hundreds of foreigners leaving with the illness.
Daren Bland, 50, from Maresfield, East Sussex, is understood to have infected his wife Sarah (pictured) and children after returning from Ischgl in mid January
The 50-year-old (left and right) had been there with three friends from January 15 to 19, with the others travelling back to their native Denmark and Minnesota in the US sick
The popular Ischgl resort, in the province of Tyrol, Austria has been blamed for hundreds of coronavirus cases in Europe
Mr Bland told the Telegraph: ‘We visited the Kitzloch [bar] and it was rammed, with people singing and dancing on the tables.
‘People were hot and sweaty from skiing and waiters were delivering shots to tables in their hundreds. You couldn’t have a better home for a virus.
‘I was ill for 10 days. It was like wading through treacle. I couldn’t get up, I couldn’t work, it knocked me for six. I was breathless.’
He said he passed it on to his family – with his youngest daughter off school for two weeks – before symptoms spread through his neighbourhood before half term.
The Bland family have not been tested for coronavirus, but if their results came back positive it means the virus hit UK shores a month earlier than thought.
Officially the first recorded case in Britain was on January 31, with the first transmission on February 28.
The virus has since spread across the four countries, racking up 465 deaths and 9,529 cases.
Mrs Bland has called for the family to be tested in a bid to help authorities understand how the virus has swept across Britain.
Ischgl, dubbed ‘Ibiza of the Alps’, faces tough questions over how revellers there ended up spreading the virus across Europe.
Austrian officials have launched a probe into whether the popular resort in Tyrol province purposefully chose not to report cases because it would hurt the tourist industry around the time of a key local election.
Leader of the opposition Dominik Oberhofer said questions need to be asked about the relationship between hoteliers and politicians who were in charge of overseeing the coronavirus response.
The tiny town, with a permanent population of just 1,500, has almost double the number of coronavirus cases as Austria’s capital Vienna, population 2million and has been linked to outbreaks in five other countries
An investigation has been launched over whether an outbreak of the disease was covered up to protect trade around the time of local elections
The inquiry centres around reports a 36-year-old German barman at the popular Kitzloch pub who fell ill with COVID-19 in February.
The resort has been linked to hundreds of cases in Austria, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Denmark.
Despite concerns the virus was running rampant at the resort, the slopes and bars were allowed to stay open for weeks.
German media has branded Ischgl ‘the breeding ground’ of coronavirus, while Norway believes almost half of the country’s cases were imported from Ischgl.
The number of infections in Ischgl – a small town of about 1,500 people – is double that of Vienna, the country’s capital, which has a population of 2million.
There have been at least 1,020 confirmed infections in the town, compared to 456 in the capital.
Europe has become the new epicentre of the pandemic, with more than 100,000 people confirmed to have been infected across the Continent. Italy makes up more than half of cases.
Reports say a German barman at the Kitzloch pub fell ill with coronavirus symptoms at the end of February, although it has not been officially confirmed.
Tourists from Scandinavia, Germany and other parts of Austria all started testing positive for the illness after returning from Ischgl in early March.
German media described the resort as a ‘breeding ground’ for the virus, but local authorities played down concerns.
Werner Kurz, the mayor of Ischgl, told German newspaper Der Spiegel the shut down was ‘a catastrophe’ for the town, saying: ‘We implemented all regulations in a timely manner’.
The number of infections in Ischgl is double that of Vienna, the country’s capital, which has a population of 2 million
Police at a roadblock outside the Ischgl, which has now been put on total lockdown
Officers in masks and gloves check papers of drivers travelling out of the region
Austria’s Health Minister Rudolf Anschober announced the number of tests would ‘massively’ rise, with more regular checks for hospital staff.
‘The number of tests is increasing and will continue to increase dramatically over the next two to three weeks,’ he said in a statement.
It comes after Austria announced it was mobilising its military for the first time since the Second World War.
Soldiers will be deployed to fight the outbreak by helping with food supplies, medical support and police operations.
Austria still has compulsory military service. Men must serve six months in the army or nine months in a civilian service when they reach 18.
Around 3,000 soldiers – 10 per cent of the reserves – will for three months take over coronavirus-related tasks from soldiers whose military service expires in May.