Authorities in Austria have handed out hefty fines to a group of overseas tourists, including several Aussies, who are said to have exploited a lockdown loophole to visit a popular ski resort in the midst of the pandemic.

Austria is currently in national lockdown as it struggles to get its roughly 1500 daily COVID cases under control. There are strict rules on entering the country, which were put in place to discourage tourists from visiting its various ski resorts.

Per ABC News reports, 96 people of various nationalities were recently caught in a police operation in the ski town of St Anton am Arlberg, with those found to be in breach of regulations potentially facing fines of more than $AU 3400.

How did this happen? Under Austria’s lockdown rules, ski lifts are open, but accommodation at ski resorts is not available to regular travelers. Business travellers, however, are allowed to stay, and mayor Helmut Mall said that this is the sneaky trick that allowed visitors to come.

A number of COVID clusters have emerged at ski teacher training courses in Austria, and Mall says that tourists have been coming to town and registering local addresses, claiming to be looking for work even though there is none available.

He told local media that, “among others, Britons, Danes, Swedes, Romanians, Germans, Australians, Irish people and Poles were checked and fined.” It’s understood that the tourists may be in breach of lockdown and immigration regulations, as well as laws on registering addresses.

Image: Getty Images / Jan Hetfleisch