Coronavirus in Austria & Vienna | What Happened in November

The coronavirus has arrived in Austria. Here’s what happened in November 2020.

with additional reporting by Amina Frassl & Daniel El-Sabeh

After the Austrian government took increasingly drastic measures in March to contain the coronavirus, the country successfully flattened the curve in April, and gradually reopened shops, schools and restaurants again in May.

Life in Vienna got back to something like normality with summer arriving in June, while newly rising numbers in July have prompted regional lockdowns, quarantine, travel warnings and targeted measures. In August, the CoV-Ampel was introduced, and measures were gradually tightened.

In September, with cases rising again at a swift pace, stricter measures have been introduced and people were asked to limit private gatherings to 10 people at max.

With numbers rising rapidly, October confronted the country with rapidly rising cases in a second wave.

As of midnight, November 17, a second “hard” lockdown was in effect until December 6, featuring, among other things, a day-time curfew. See the current rules here.

November has seen the number of coronavirus cases and the number of deaths triple in Austria. More than 2,000 people died due to COVID-19 in November alone, a higher death toll than in the previous seven months before taken together. The country is still fighting to bring the number of new infections down.

For a wrap-up of current measures and developments, check out our current Coronavirus in Austria & Vienna article, with daily updates.

Here’s a timeline of what happened in Austria in November 2020.

November 30, 2020

  • This Wednesday, Dec. 2, the government plans to announce the opening and easing steps in the coming weeks.
    • The heads of Austrian hospitals meanwhile addressed a letter to health minister Rudolf Anschober (Greens) urging the government to take measures that continue to “reduce infections and keep cases low in the longer term.”
    • The letter also says that the second wave has taken “public hospitals to the edge of their capacity.” Thanks to the “outstanding willingness to perform and the personal commitment of the employees,” the “massive level of treatment needed” could be achieved or the patients.
    • The second lockdown has shown results, according to the letter, as can be seen in the markedly lower infection numbers in recent days.
    • Meanwhile, shops and stores start to prepare for opening up again on December 6.
    • The Austrian Economic Chamber (WKO) and the Red Cross are working on catalog of measures that should permit “safe reopening.”
  • Vienna Airport is preparing to act as a logistics center for the dissemination and distribution of the vaccine, once it will start to be delivered.
    • The airport is running the Pharma Handling Center in Schwechat, to which a hall sized 1,700 square meters belongs.
    • The area contains cooling facilities – the Pfizer/Biontech vaccine has to be stored at -70° Celsius – and is well connected to many specialized logistics firms.
    • “Rapid and careful handling of the vaccines while maintaining the cold chain and efficient distribution to the recipients have the highest priority,” said Vienna Airport board members Günther Ofner and Julian Jäger. “As with the medical aid deliveries, which were processed around the clock at the airport during the first months of the pandemic, we are well prepared for this challenge,” they added.
    • Both maintain that the airport and the Pharma Handling Center can coordinate and handle the distribution of the vaccine for all of Austria.
  • 5,400 soldiers of the Austrian federal army (Bundesheer) are currently deployed across the country to help prepare the mass testing operations that will take place in the coming days and weeks.
    • In Vienna alone, 2,000 soldiers are supporting the city’s authorities and blue-light organizations.
    • Starting on December 7, all 38,000 employees of the Ministry of the Interior – including the police – will be tested with rapid antigen tests.
    • The Bundesheer also helps with disseminating the rapid antigen tests bought by the government to all federal states.

  • The US pharma company Moderna has applied for an emergency use authorization (EUA) for its vaccine candidate in the European Union.
    • Moderna is the second firm to seek authorization, after Pfizer/Biontech.
    • Decisions on emergency authorization from health authorities in the UK, US and EU are expected in the coming weeks.

  • Austrian ministries reported 2,748 new cases in the last 24 hours, as of 09:30 today.
    • This is the lowest case count since October 26, when 2,456 new infections were reported.
    • Health Minister Rudolf Anschober (Greens) cautioned however, that today “only” 15,000 test results reported, compared to a daily average of 30,000 during most of November.
    • A total of 4,340 patients with COVID-19 are hospitalized in Austria, an increase of +89 (+2.1%) since yesterday.
    • Of those, 701 are getting intensive care, +10 (+1.4%) more than before.
    • Since yesterday, 71 people in Austria have died due or with the virus. This brings the total since the beginning of the pandemic to now 3,184.

  • Vienna’s third “testing street” is being opened today in the 22nd district Donaustadt, close to the Austria Center and the UN.
    • The testing streets is being set up today and will start to offer its services tomorrow, Dec. 1.
    • This testing street will offer free antigen tests for all persons wishing to visit old people’s homes, nursing homes and hospitals, as well as staff of critical infrastructure facilities and blue-light organizations.
    • An online registration is required beforehand on the city’s webpage, which is also available in English.
    • Two other testing streets offering PCR testing with the gargling test are already in service, one close to the Stadtion in the Prater and one on the Donauinsel.
    • So far, almost 132,800 people have been tested for the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 in these test streets. Eight percent were positive, i.e. slightly more than 10,700.
    • More information (in German) on those testing streets can be found on the city’s official webpage.
  • According to the retired Viennese statistics professor Erich Neuwirth (@neuwirthe) who has been tracking Austria’s coronavirus case numbers closely, authorities reported “only” 2,474 new cases between 08:00 and 23:00 on yesterday’s Sunday.
    • While numbers are regularly lower on Sundays, the low number is still encouraging.
    • This is consistent with a current reproduction number (R) of 0.85, meaning that the overall number of active cases is falling.
    • However, with cases still relatively high, hospitals heavily burdened and first opening steps only a week away, caution is still highly advised.
  • Austria’s Minister of Defense, Klaudia Tanner (ÖVP), was tested positive for the coronavirus. So far, she is doing well and is now self-isolating at home.
  • Two people who were tested positive for the virus traveled in a train from Biel in Switzerland to Graz via Zürich on November 25 and 26.
    • Other travelers on the route on these days are called to be extra careful, monitor their symptoms and call the coronavirus health line 1450 if they have any questions.
  • Neighboring Czechia has announced first easing steps.
    • On December 3, all shops, restaurants and services will reopen if they comply with the rules, such as at least 15 square meters per customer.
    • The country-wide risk level was lowered to three on a five-level scale.
    • Shops will also be open on Sundays, the night-time curfew will be lifted and outdoor sports again permitted.
    • Czechia experienced one of the harshest and earliest second waves of the virus in Europe and entered lockdown some weeks earlier than Austria.
    • New cases are now down to about 2,500 a day in the country with 10 million inhabitants.
  • The number of new infections in Germany is falling again. The country reported 11,000 new cases on Monday, compared to a peak of over 23,000 on Friday, Nov. 20.

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

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