Health

London arts director, 53, caught Covid-19 while skiing in Austria at New Year

Coronavirus may have flown into the UK a month before the first case was identified.

An antibody test has revealed that a London Arts director, who fell ill on January 6 after returning from a skiing holiday in Austria, has suffered from the disease.

Susannah Ford, 53, said she is convinced she caught it while at Obergurgl resort, less than eight miles from the Italian border.

It is also 65 miles from Ischgl, Austria, which is facing a criminal probe over allegations it covered up an outbreak for weeks – allowing the disease to spread across Europe. 

The results, which do not prove when she got the disease, suggest she may be the new patient zero. 

The first British case was identified in scout-leader Steve Walsh, from Brighton, on February 6. The first case in the country was a Chinese student in York, who was diagnosed on January 29.

Susannah Ford, 53, fell ill on January 6, two days after returning from a skiing holiday in Austria. She is convinced that it was coronavirus

Susannah Ford, 53, fell ill on January 6, two days after returning from a skiing holiday in Austria. She is convinced that it was coronavirus

A resort 65 miles away from where she was staying has been linked to hundreds of cases in Europe. Britain's outbreak peaked in early April, and has since been slowly declining

A resort 65 miles away from where she was staying has been linked to hundreds of cases in Europe. Britain’s outbreak peaked in early April, and has since been slowly declining

She had stayed at Obergurgl resort in Austria with her husband and two daughters. As they didn't get ill, she thought she may have caught something during a trip to Trinidad that she took just before the holiday

She had stayed at Obergurgl resort in Austria with her husband and two daughters. As they didn’t get ill, she thought she may have caught something during a trip to Trinidad that she took just before the holiday

Ford had visited the resort with her husband and two daughters, and fell ill two days after returning to the UK via Gatwick. She was the only member of her family to fall ill. 

‘I felt like death,’ she told The Sunday Times. ‘I ached terribly in every muscle and joint for five days and was too groggy even to go to the Eliot prize for poetry. 

‘We didn’t go to any clubs or discos, we ate in the hotel every night and were then safely tucked up in bed. But I guess when you are skiing you touch lots of things – ski poles, lift buttons.’

She had been to Trinidad before the holiday, and thought it may have been something that she picked up there. She was tested for dengue fever and leishmaniasis, before GPs said she had a vitamin D deficiency. 

Ischgl is facing an investigation in Austria over claims it covered up the outbreak, and kept the slopes and bars open for weeks despite the danger.

German media has branded it ‘the breeding ground’ of coronavirus while Norway has argued almost half of its cases came from the resort. 

Obergurgl is less than eight miles from Italy and 65 miles from Ischl, which is facing a criminal probe over allegations it covered up an outbreak of the virus

Obergurgl is less than eight miles from Italy and 65 miles from Ischl, which is facing a criminal probe over allegations it covered up an outbreak of the virus

The first case in the country was identified in a Chinese student in York on January 29

Ford's belief could mean she is the new patient zero. Britain's first coronavirus case Steve Walsh, right, was diagnosed on February 6.

Ford’s belief could mean she is the new patient zero. Britain’s first coronavirus case Steve Walsh, right, was diagnosed on February 6. The first case in the country was identified in a Chinese student in York on January 29

There have been numerous suggestions from scientists that coronavirus was likely present in the UK long before it was officially identified.

A coronavirus tracking app designed by King’s College London, which asks users to report their symptoms, found hundreds of its more than two million users had suffered Covid-like symptoms shortly after the new year.

Some even said they’d suffered from symptoms that matched the virus in late December.

Although untested, the reports suggest the virus was circulating through the UK long before it was identified.

The Ischgl resort allegedly kept hotels and bars open for weeks while it was aware that the virus had arrived in the area and was spreading

The Ischgl resort allegedly kept hotels and bars open for weeks while it was aware that the virus had arrived in the area and was spreading

Britain’s pandemic is slowly subsiding as the country enters the 76th day of lockdown, but there are fears the R number – measuring the viral spread – has ticked up to one in the north west and south west of England.

The government has said it will not hesitate to reinstate a full lockdown, or localised lockdowns, should the virus resurface with a vengeance.

It comes amid calls for more action to be taken over travel restrictions, as Britons pack into beaches across the country. 

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