Tyrol's corona policy is overshadowed by a PCR test scandal.
A urologist was hired to do a lavishly rewarded job - and apparently made critical mistakes.
Innsbruck - The Austrian Tyrol was meanwhile particularly badly affected by Covid-19, was even considered a virus variant area.
In order to contain the pandemic, Tyrol relied on a nationwide test strategy, among other things.
However, there were considerable inconsistencies.
Corona in Tyrol: test scandal involving German urologists - doubts about PCR results
At the center of the criticism is the urologist Ralf Herwig, who was born in Recklinghausen. He was in charge of handling PCR tests in Tyrol. Herwig is the managing director of HG Pharma. The company was commissioned in September 2020 to support Tyrol in carrying out tests. As
out, this order is worth at least eight million euros. There was never an official tender. The approval went directly to Herwig and his company HG Labtruck GmbH, founded at the same time and based in Kirchberg near Kitzbühel.
HG Labtruck, which operates with mobile laboratories, has carried out around 220,000 PCR tests since then - and was thus directly involved in more than half of the 430,000 PCR tests in Tyrol.
After inconsistencies were found in some tests, the Herwig debate took off.
Around 50 positive corona tests were assigned to a virus mutation, although it had not occurred in those affected.
Urologist Herwig was denied the professional qualification to evaluate PCR tests.
It is still unclear who ultimately found the test results.
There is now a discussion in the country about whether the Tyrolean virus variant may have occurred less often than expected.
Ralf Herwig is a specialist in urology and andrology.
Among other things, he worked at the University Hospital in Münster and has a practice in Wasserburg in Upper Bavaria.
© Eibner Europe / Imago
Corona: Vortex around PCR company - partner companies also involved
The Austrian daily
even raised the suspicion that “no tests, or those that were not technically correct, had been delivered” since November.
The reason for this are problems with a Salzburg partner company called Procomcure Biotech.
The company ended the cooperation because HG Labtruck did not pay open invoices.
A lawsuit with claims in the millions has been filed.
An unnamed business partner of Herwig drew
a different picture
and spoke of “a power struggle, a witch hunt”.
Herwig himself terminated the cooperation with the partner company after he "discovered that the company had no market prices and that there were quality defects in the products".
Corona in Tyrol: State government ends cooperation with Herwig - urologist withdraws
Herwig was also criticized because there is currently a lawsuit against him for grievous bodily harm and fraud. He is said to have misdiagnosed five men with potency problems. Currently, the urologist is not allowed to practice as a doctor. He himself denies the allegations, for him the presumption of innocence applies. The trial scheduled for Friday (May 7th) has apparently been postponed due to Herwig's health problems.
The state of Tyrol initially saw no inconsistencies in the laboratory findings or the award of the contract in the form of regional chairman Günther Platter (ÖVP). The state government was not aware that there were investigations against Herwig. On Wednesday, however, the head of government, whose office is comparable to that of the German prime minister, pulled the rip cord. The state no longer wants to work with HG Labtruck, Ralf Herwig withdrew from the operational business at the same time. The criticism, also of the state government, has not yet disappeared. FPÖ regional chief Markus Abwerzger sees “personal consequences, from Platter to all those responsible, urgently required,” he told the
Corona in Austria: "We were surprised how it can be that a urologist suddenly becomes a virologist"
Andrea Haselwanter-Schneider, club chairwoman of the opposition party List Fritz, shows
no understanding of the procedure.
"We at List Fritz were amazed how it can be that a urologist suddenly becomes a virologist and why the state of Tyrol is concluding this contract with a company that has not yet been noticed in Tyrol."
In response to a request from the party in March 2021 in the direction of Platter, the regional chairman is said to have "declared himself not responsible".
Haselwanter-Schneider is therefore also making the state government responsible: “The main problem and the main reproach is the lack of a tender.
This is absolutely necessary given the amount of tax money that is being spent here. "
Corona: Did the test affair have any consequences for the population?
"Measures may have been taken wrongly"
The native of Innsbruck also considers it possible that the Tyrolean population experienced disadvantages as a result of the award: "If it is true that there could have been professional and technical problems, then many measures may have been taken wrongly." Haselwanter-Schneider speaks of the compulsory departure test, "which might then have been unnecessary in many cases". The molecular biologist Ullrich Elling considers the measures taken to be "justified anyway," as he
. The proportion of detected mutations is very high in an international comparison, even without the false-positive tests.
The U-turn by Platter, who first praised the good exchange with Labtruck and Herwig, but has now ended the collaboration, causes irritation at Haselwanter-Schneider. "We wonder why he did that when everything seems to be in perfect order." The opposition politician expects Platter to apologize to the population and to come to terms with it completely. “It is his responsibility to do that. A mistake can always happen, but you have to stand up for your mistakes. "