CoV on December 12 | Tyrol Makes Free Antigen Testing Permanent

The coronavirus is shaping our lives. Here’s everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Austria on December 12, 2020 – updated regularly.

Reporting on COVID-19 in Austria is brought to you by Benjamin Wolf, Amina Frassl & Daniel El-Sabeh.

Find here the daily coronavirus updates for Austria and Vienna, with everything you need to know about COVID-19.

We also prepared in-depth coverage about about Vienna’s mass testing campaign for you.

And if you want to know how Austria will open up after the second lockdown, we’ve got you covered.

Here is a wrap-up of the measures currently in place in Austria, as they were announced, and information about the situation in general.

Get yourself tested! From Dec. 4-13, 08:00-18:00, everyone in Vienna can get a free rapid antigen test in the Stadthalle, the Marxhalle and the Messehalle. Register at österreich-testet.at.

December 10, 2020

  • Tyrol will be offering free rapid antigen tests permanently for anyone who wants one, starting next weekend.
    • The regional government announced the measure today.
    • Officials hope that people will use the opportunity to celebrate over the holidays responsibly and get tested before meeting family and other people in closed rooms.
  • Rapid mass antigen testing is happening these days in several federal states.
    • In Upper Austria, 160,000 people went to get tested and 546 cases were positive.
    • In Lower Austria, 150,000 people went testing and 200 cases were positive.
    • In Styria, 176,000 people showed up to make a test.
    • In Vienna, the testing sites are still open the entire weekend for anyone who wants to get a rapid test – also without online registration.
  • Austrian ministries reported 3,241 new cases in the last 24 hours.
    • This is an increase compared to yesterday, the first after several days of falling case numbers.
    • The 7-day-incidence still fell to 206 per 100,000 inhabitants.
    • The number of known active cases fell by -1,265 (-3.3%) to a total of 37,524.
    • The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 decreased by -52 (-1.4%) to 3,599.
    • Of those, 591 are in intensive care, an increase of +19 (+3.3%).
    • Since yesterday, 126 people have died due to or with the virus. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 4,415 people in Austria died due to COVID-19.
  • The United States approved the first vaccine against the coronavirus.
    • The FDA granted the vaccine developed by Pfizer/Biontech an emergency use authorization (EUA).
    • The US is the sixth country to approve the vaccine, after Britain, Bahrain, Canada, Saudi Arabia and Mexico.
    • Vaccinations for health care workers and nursing homes in the United States may begin “within days,” with 2.9 million doses being shipped over the next week (i.e. enough to vaccinate 1.45 million people).

New Rules for Holidays & New Year’s Eve

  • The Austrian government announced new measures and restrictions for the coming holidays in a late-night press conference.
    • “The pandemic is not over,” said Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP). “Infections in the private space are still too high.” And “the virus does not stop spreading during the holidays.”
    • There will be another round of mass tests for the public on January 8-10.
    • Workers in specific jobs – e.g. those who have direct contact with other people at their work – will get tested regularly every two weeks. Many of those tests will be mandatory, the Social Partners are currently working on a concrete roadmap.
    • In the future, the federal states can also mandate obligatory mask-wearing at strongly frequented public places (e.g. shopping streets, open malls, markets, squares etc.).
    • Mask wearing will also become mandatory at many workplaces where the minimum distance cannot be kept.
  • As for the holidays themselves, the government announced further restrictions.
    • The legal details will be comprised in a decree that is to be published next week.
    • Kurz and Kogler announced that “up to 10 people” from any number of households can meet on December 24 and 25.
    • The exception for December 26, as previously floated by Kurz, was withdrawn.
    • For New Year’s Eve (December 31 / January 1) this rule no longer applies. Only up to 6 people from a maximum of two households will be permitted to meet.
    • However, there will be no night-time curfew on New Year’s Eve and the two Christmas holidays.
    • “New Year’s Eve parties would mean a catastrophe for January,” Kurz said.
    • The night-time curfew (20:00-06:00) will stay in place for all days except Dec. 24, 25 and 31.
    • Except for the mentioned days, only two households with up to 12 people (6 adults and 6 children) will be permitted to meet on any given day and only during the day.
    • The virologist Christian Steininger commented the slightly more lenient rules over Christmas as a “sign of respect” and a “compromise” but also warned that the government needs to realize that the risk will increase during the holidays.

Other News

  • The virus’s reproduction number (R) has fallen to 0.79 in Austria.
    • That means, on average, one infected person has infected 0.79 other people in the last weeks.
    • The effective reproduction number is currently markedly below 1 in all federal states.
    • Austria’s 7-day-incidence also fell, to currently 213 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants – that number was last reached around October 26.
    • The federal states reported the following 7-day-incidences:
      • Burgenland: 145
      • Vienna: 174
      • Lower Austria: 191
      • Styria: 222
      • Tyrol: 228
      • Upper Austria: 235
      • Salzburg: 254
      • Carinthia: 265
      • Vorarlberg: 276
  • Austrians saved more money in the year 2020 due to the pandemic.
    • The Austrian National Bank (ÖNB) calculated that people living in Austria saved €12 billion more this year than in the year before, even though they earned €5 billion less in total due to the economic crisis.
    • The ÖNB estimates that half of the saved amount was in a sense “involuntary saving” as people did not actually get the chance to spend the money on what they wanted to.
    • The other half is described as “precautionary saving” in times of uncertainty and crisis.
    • The personal saving rate rose from 8% of GDP in a normal year to very high 13.7% in 2020.
    • While the money is “missing” as demand this year, the saved amounts may provide a significant boost for the economy over the coming years, if the situation normalizes again.
    • Other economic data looks still very grim, according to the ÖNB:
      • Austria’s GDP is projected to fall by -7.1% this year, marking the deepest recession in the post-war era. The ÖNB pencils in a significant, but drawn-out recovery, with growth rates of +3.6% in 2021, +4.0 in 2022 and +2.3% in 2023.
      • The unemployment rate, according to the stricter national calculation, rose from 7.4% in 2019 to 10.2% in 2020 and is projected to only fall gradually, reaching 8.9% in 2023.
      • The state’s budget balance went from a moderate surplus of +0.7% in 2019 to a record deficit of -9.2% in 2020 and is projected to recover in steps of -6.3% (2021), -2.9% (2022) and -1.4% (2021).
  • An indicator of returning optimism – at least for the medium term – could be travel bookings for holidays in 2021.
    • Several holiday operators report of increasing booking numbers for next summer and even the Easter holidays, thanks to increasing vaccine optimism among the population.
    • Airlines see the situation also more optimistic again: The German Lufthansa with daughter company Austrian Airlines sees air travel return next year to “half of 2019’s level,” with up to 70% of utilization expected in the summer and autum.
    • The higher demand for holidays also shows in prices, which are up +14% compared to the summer 2019 in some areas and segments, reports tour operator TUI.
    • While 2021 may promise to be a better year for the tourism sector, most airlines and operators see a “return to normality” only in 2022 and later.
  • With several resolutions regarding the coronavirus crisis, e.g. concerning the aliens law, child benefits or civilian service, the last session of National Council this year ended yesterday.
    • At the end of the plenary session, Friedrich Ofenauer (ÖVP) and Robert Laimer (SPÖ) were elected chairmen of the Parliamentary Federal Armed Forces Commission.
    • For civilian servants, the coronavirus special regulations were extended until the end of August 2021, allowing resumption of deployment away from traditional areas of responsibility in fields of critical infrastructure and services of general interest.
    • The income-related childcare allowance has also been redesigned for the coronavirus period. As an exception, it can be calculated on the basis of income for 2019, provided that this results in a higher daily rate.
    • In the area of aliens law, special provisions have been extended until mid-2021.
    • An amendment to the Study Subsidies Act was also adopted. The additional earnings limit for study grants will rise to EUR 15,000, which is in line with the limit for family allowances.
    • In the agricultural and forestry sector, the service law was amended.
    • The obligation to provide counseling for violent offenders who have been expelled from their homes or banned from approaching will now begin six months later, in mid-2021.
    • The most emotional debate of the meeting in the early hours of the morning was about the new CoV powers of the police.
    • Although the coalition had already withdrawn a control of the quarantine by the executive the day before, there was a hail of criticism from the SPÖ, FPÖ and NEOS, who all rejected the bill.
  • In addition to the police, large-scale testing for the coronavirus has also begun in the prison sector.
    • By Friday afternoon, around 1,000 officers across Austria, or a quarter of the staff, had undergone antigen testing on a voluntary basis.
    • At the beginning of December more than 3 dozen infections among the inmates and the guard staff had become known.
    • 137 prison guards, or two-thirds of the staff, were tested at Garsten last week.
  • Starting today, free coronavirus testing will be offered in Lower Austria‘s 573 municipalities.
    • 480,000 people had registered in advance for the free and voluntary rapid antigen test, or about 31% of 1.53 million entitled persons.

  • In Styria already 176,000 have registered for voluntary CoV mass testing.
    • Free testing is also possible without pre-registration at some testing stations.
  • In many parts of Italy, the CoV situation has gradually improved and pressure on hospitals has decreased.

Austria’s Vaccination Strategy

  • The government also presented Austria’s vaccination strategy which, however, still leaves many open questions.
    • The 3-phased approach is already well-established:
  1. In a first phase in January/February 2021, very high risk groups and workers in the healthcare sector will be vaccinated.
  2. In a second phase in February/April 2021, the vaccination will gradually become available for other older citizens or workers in critical infrastructure.
  3. Then in the third phase starting “in Q2 2021,” the public will increasingly be able to get their vaccine jab.
  • Chancellor Kurz spoke of “limited supplies of vaccine” at the beginning of the next year and of “bureaucratic hurdles” that still have to be cleared.
    • According to newspaper reports, the chancellor was evasive when asked about further details by the leaders of federal states in a video call on Friday evening.
    • Political scientist Peter Filzmaier meanwhile cautioned that it is still hard to gauge “vaccine willingness” of the population – he sees the share of people who are willing to quickly get a vaccine jab closer to 20% than the 50% that are reported in polls.
  • The first Western nations to start their vaccination campaigns against COVID-19 – Canada and the United Kingdom – meanwhile reported only “classical” side effects so far.
    • Of those who were vaccinated, 62.9% reported fatigue after getting the jab, 55.1% had some headaches (but only 2% strong ones), 38.3% reported muscle pain and 31.9% shivers. Every seventh (14.2%) got a fever.
    • All those mild side effects were gone after a day.
    • Higher caution, however, is warranted for people who have one or several stronger allergies. The vaccine study did not show any significant differences for these groups, but two recent cases in the UK warrant extra attention (both people recovered well).
    • Vaccinologist Ursula Wiedermann Schmidt of the Medical University of Vienna describes these vaccine reactions as classic. “The probability of having such a vaccination reaction is relatively high. That’s an important point, that you also tell people: This will most likely occur, the majority of people react like this.”
    • Furthermore, vaccine studies show that astonishingly high numbers of people report of some side effects even in the placebo group, which just gets a saline injection
    • Below you can see a comparison of side effects reported for Shingrix, an approved vaccine against shingles, the Pfizer/Biontech vaccine against the coronavirus, a current influenca vaccine and a placebo saline solution.
    • While the side effects reported were stronger in all the actual vaccine shot groups, as could be expected, it is still notable how many people also tend to report side while having gotten a placebo.

On the next page, you find an overview of all measures currently in place in Austria.

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Benjamin Wolf
Benjamin studied Journalism, History and International Affairs. After stints with Cafébabel in Paris and Arte in Strasbourg, he is now working as managing editor and COO for Metropole in Vienna. Fields of expertise are politics, economics, culture, and history. Photo: Visual Hub

Current Status

If you live in Vienna, make sure to register for getting a vaccine against COVID-19 under impfservice.wien.  Here you can book your vaccination appointment.

The City of Vienna offers free vaccinations without an appointment to everyone – regardless of citizenship or insurance status – at multiple locations across the city. 

Vienna has reinstated a number of coronavirus restrictions for the fall. The Austrian government has presented a plan for schools and universities.  

Here’s an overview of where you can get tested for COVID-19 in Vienna and how the free PCR “gargle” tests at home work. 

If everything is a bit much for you or you experience domestic violence of any kind, here is our mental health resource article.

Numbers

For current coronavirus numbers, check the website of Ministry of Health and the AGES dashboard.

The Austrian Ministry of Health also publishes daily vaccination statistics and a preview of scheduled deliveries.

Resources

The City of Vienna has compiled comprehensive information on questions and answers regarding coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease in English.

The Austrian Ministry of Health has put together FAQs on the coronavirus and also provides material to download on how to protect yourself and others from the disease, also in English.

Furthermore, the ministry will constantly update its German-language website with information on the number of people tested and cases of COVID-19 in Austria.

Hotlines

Health advice by telephone1450

If you show symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties) or fear that you are ill, stay at home and dial health number 1450 for further procedures (diagnostic clarification).

Coronavirus hotline AGES+43 0800 555 621

The Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES) answers questions about the coronavirus (general information on transmission, symptoms, prevention) 24 hours a day at +43 0800 555 621.

VKI hotline for travel law questions+43 0800 201 211

For legal questions concerning trips that have already been booked (e.g. whether a trip can be cancelled free of charge), the experts of the Association for Consumer Information (VKI) provide advice free of charge from Monday to Sunday between 09:00 and 15:00 at +43 0800 201 211.