With encouraging words, President Alexander Van der Bellen called upon the population (“All Austrians and everybody who lives here”) to persevere in the crisis. In a second televised address (click here for the first one) he said he did not know exactly how long the crisis would last, but he knew that it would pass at some point.
Until then and in the future, he said, a “new togetherness” in the country was needed, even if the pandemic demanded “great restrictions and a lot of consideration.” He also called upon the elderly to let themselves be helped and thanked everyone for their cooperation and sacrifice.
Here is the speech in its original form:
“Dear Austrians and everyone who lives here.
We are all facing a great challenge together right now. The Corona pandemic demands great restrictions and a lot of consideration from us. And we have dead people to mourn. To all relatives who have lost a loved one, I would like to express my special sympathy.
Ladies and gentlemen:
For all of us together this situation is new, uncertain; it makes us feel insecure. At the same time, we know that each and every one of us can make a contribution by consistently changing our own lifestyle for the coming period.
We all know that we are only at the beginning of this joint effort. Almost three weeks have now passed since the Austria-wide exit restrictions came into force. That is an unusually long time. And we all wish it were over already.
And yet we know: Together we all have to hold on a little longer.
To all the elderly who may feel alone and isolated, to all the physically or mentally ill who are struggling, and to their relatives who cannot now show their affection in direct contact.
All the doctors and health care workers who are already exhausted and are now holding their breath in anticipation of what is to come.
All the volunteers who put themselves at risk of infection to help others. All the people at the cash desks of the shops.
All the entrepreneurs, the freelancers, all the people who have lost their jobs, all those – as in the AMS – who have to deal with thousands and thousands of requests and implement the measures decided upon, the artists who fear for their existence.
All parents who are under pressure, and all pupils, apprentices and students in our country. And all the people who are impatiently waiting for the end of this crisis.
To all of them I say: Let’s hold on! Let’s hold on! And: Let us keep our courage and our confidence!
A new way of life
Dear Austrians and all those who live here, I want to be honest with you: I don’t know how long it will take to overcome this crisis.
And I don’t know how bad it will be either. No one can say that with certainty at the moment.
But there is one certainty. And I ask you to always remember that: It will pass. The crisis will pass. Until it does, we will get used to a new way of life for a while.
We will maintain for a time some new habits that are simply necessary for us all to protect ourselves.
We have already gotten used to not shaking hands. We will keep on washing our hands more often, because it makes sense anyway.
Let’s keep in touch with everyone who is important to us, but keep our distance. So, let’s keep at least one meter distance to our nearest and dearest. We have also learned this in the meantime.
All this has become part of our everyday life, just like wearing a mouth and nose mask when shopping.
We will continue to talk to each other more often via telephone or video conference, and perhaps find that we are talking to family and friends more often now than before the crisis.
This will continue for a while, and it looks as if it will be a little longer. And if it is necessary – and it is necessary – then we will do it. Together!
Because we know why we are doing it: Because we want to protect those people for whom this disease is life-threatening.
Not an answer to every question
We will continue to develop a new style of cooperation in the future! A new togetherness, as it will be lived and worked in the companies, as in the shops, the tourist businesses and the inns, the offices and authorities, social services, hospitals and doctors’ surgeries, schools and childcare facilities.
And part of our new shared reality is probably also the fact that we do not immediately have an answer to every question. Rather, we are prepared to constantly learn and adapt our strategies.
Ladies and gentlemen, even if we are now struggling with our situation, even if we sometimes find it hard to bear it. There are insights that we can gain. And if we do that, this crisis may not have been in vain.
One insight is quite obvious: We are stronger and more closely connected than we were aware of. Everything we do or don’t do has consequences for others.
We see and prove this in a positive sense right now: Our entire society has acted to protect the lives of our particularly vulnerable fellow citizens.
The right thing to do
Even those who are not directly endangered are radically restricting their lives. And in doing so, they accept drastic economic consequences.
But we do it because it is the right thing to do. Because we want to live in a society in which every life is equally valuable. Where those who are doing well look at those who are not doing so well.
In this way we show that for us these are not just words, but that these words are also worth something to us. And that we act accordingly in the case of an emergency.
With the strength of each one of us, we are now all together weakening the virus! We all bring life to what we believe in. We show respect and selflessness and thus strengthen our community. A heartfelt thank you for this.
And a word to the older ones among us:
Take special care of yourself. Stay at home. Let someone help you. Ask for help with the groceries. Give up – for the time being – a few cherished habits such as family or other direct contacts.
I know this is not easy. We love our habits. But let us replace them with new ones. We’ll get it right!
Let’s do it together, please. Let’s protect ourselves and protect our family and our friends.
Ladies and gentlemen, some day we will look back on this strange, painful, unreal spring of 2020. And we will find: It has passed. It has passed!
And we will perhaps be able to better appreciate how valuable and important we are to each other.
Thank you very much.”