Coronavirus in Austria & Vienna | What Happened in November

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

November 29, 2020

  • Today Health Minister Rudolf Anschober said that the despite the fact that the number of new infections continues to decrease, the situation in the country is still “very serious.”
    • One problem is the high occupancy of intensive care units. This should not become permanent, said Anschober, especially considering that December’s flu season will add an “additional burden on the hospitals.”
    • Anschober is, however, happy about the R-value, which currently stands at 0.88.
    • Yet, he urged that we must keep this downward trend going to ease out of lockdown.
      • “The coming week, the last part of the lockdown, must lead to a massive reduction in the number of new infections,” Anschober said.“We can and must all contribute to this.”

  • According to the AGES dashboard, Austria’s 7-day-incidence has decreased for the third day in a row to 349.2.

  • The preparation for Vienna’s mass testing are in full swing, said City Health Councilor Peter Hacker.
    • During Dec. 4 and 13, the city plans to work 10 hours daily and conduct about 140,000 tests each day.
    • Starting next Friday, Viennese residents can get tested at three different test centers: The Messe Hall, Stadthalle, and Marx Halle.
      • 176 test queues will be available in the Messe, 70 in the Marxhalle, and 40 in the Stadthalle.
    • The city government projects that about 60% of the city’s residents will take up the offer, meaning the city would test 1.2 million people.
    • The councilor assured that the electronic pre-registration system will launch by Dec. 2. Alternatively, individuals can call to schedule an appointment.
    • Without this platform, this initiative would be “unthinkable.” It would turn into “chaos,” said Hacker.

  • Defense Minister Klaudia Tanner tested positive for the coronavirus. According to her spokesperson, she is doing well.
    • After Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, Tanner is the second government member to contract the virus.

  • In an interview with the Austrian newspaper Kleine Zeitung, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz dampened expectations that the government will relax measures after the current lockdown. There will be no “hasty opening steps,” only a “careful” reopening of schools and stores if cases remain low.
    • “We will have to live with further massive restrictions after Dec. 7,” he said.
    • Kurz emphasized that reopening depends on the number of infections. The higher these are, the “more difficult it will be to initiate opening steps.”
    • Kurz wants to prevent a third lockdown as much as possible. He believes the antigen-mass tests, scheduled fro December, will provide “a good chance” for the country to avoid a third shut down.
    • When asked about the reopening of ski resorts, he said that the government will present its plans on Wednesday.
      • But Kurz said he was “sorry,” as sports and leisure will not be part of the first reopening steps.
      • “What is clear: Apres-ski will earliest be back in a year.”
      • Nevertheless, the government wants to make more sport possible again “in the foreseeable future,” especially outdoor and individual sports.
    • Kurz also said that we can only return to normal once “a significant part of the population has been vaccinated.”
  • The Austrian daily newspaper Die Presse reported on the possible reopening plans.
    • Although nothing is set in stone, the government will prioritize opening schools and shops on Dec. 7.
    • Next to the 10 square meter per person rule, there will be stricter controls in stores.
    • Masks will be required in schools, classes may be staggered, and classes must move into larger, corona safe rooms.
    • The gastronomy will, if at all, only open during the day. But this is still out in the open.
      • In any case, Christmas parties are strictly prohibited.
  • In a letter to Austrian schools, Education Minister Heinz Faßmann presented the mass testing schedule for teachers on Dec. 5 and 6. Starting at the beginning of next week, the employees can book a test appointment at a test station near their homes on an online platform.
    • Teachers in Vienna, Tyrol and Vorarlberg, will be tested as part of the general mass tests.
      • Viennese school faculty will be tested at the general mass testing sites (Messe Wien, Marx Halle und the Stadthalle) between Dec. 4 and 13.
    • In total, there are 100 test stations throughout Austria.
    • Teachers will receive the result via text or e-mail.
  • Austrian ministries reported 4,047 new infections in the last 24 hours.
    • Over 4,251 patients are currently being treated in Austrian hospitals. 691 in intensive care.
    • 3,105 people have died from or with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
  • A study found that the women tend to experience milder symptoms, are hospitalized less frequently, and rarely die from COVID-19, in comparison to men.
    • International studies have shown that female hormones and x-chromosomes react positively to the virus.
  • The federal government is providing 14.2 million Euro from the Foreign Disaster Fund (AKF) for emergency aid in countries in Africa, the Near and Middle East, and Asia.
    • The funds will go directly to UN organizations and NGOs, such as the Red Cross, which provide aid on the spot.
  • As reported by the Austrian daily newspaper Kronen Zeitung, the mass tests in Vienna must be postponed by two days due to an IT software issue.
    • The mass tests are now scheduled to start on Dec. 4.
  • According to the AGES dashboard, the 7-day incidence has decreased for the second day in a row. The value is currently 363.
    • On the graphic below you can see the 7-day-incidence curve of neighboring countries Austria (Österreich), Germany (Deutschland) and Switzerland (Schweiz).
    • The numbers are from Friday, hence the slightly higher value (371) for Austria.

November 28, 2020

  • In an interview on Ö1-Mittagsjournal, Viennese Mayor Michael Ludwig defended his decision to begin mass testing early in the city on Dec. 2.
    • “The fact that we’re doing this earlier is because the western federal states have rightly decided to carry out the tests in such a way that people who may need to quarantine can be back home before Christmas,” said Ludwig. “I think that’s a logical approach.”
    • Ludwig assured that he had informed Defense Minister Klaudia Tanner and the military (Bundesheer) in time.
    • Vienna has offered to create the framework for the tests organized by the armed forces. The city also offered to provide 200 additional paramedics, which is currently a major challenge. 
      • “We want to support the federal government’s measure wherever we can,” assured the mayor.
    • According to Ludwig, the next steps must be considered regionally.
    • Vienna is in a “good situation,” because it currently has the lowest number of infections – based on the number of inhabitants.
      • Ludwig said, “We test a lot. That was our strategy from the start.”
    • The question of when the city’s Christmas markets will open remains up in the air.
      • There is a risk that it will no longer pay off for business people if the opening is too late, warned the mayor.
      • It depends on whether the federal government decides to reopen shops.
  • Today Health Minister Rudolf Anschober again acknowledged that the number of new infections have declined. However, he indicated that cases must reduce dramatically next week, the final week of the lockdown.
    • Therefore, he urged the population to adhere to the restrictions.
      • “Let us all show once again that we can make a strong contribution, can reduce the direct contacts and we can consistently keep minimum distance to others, and follow the hygiene regulations and all specified measures,” said Anschober.
    • According to the minister, it takes just under two weeks to see a decrease in the number of new infections due to the measures.
    • It takes three weeks for a reduction in hospitalized cases.
    • The number of deaths also decreases, which according to Anschober, is “urgently needed.” He called the number of deaths today “extremely high at +132.” 
  • Austrian ministries recorded 4,699 new cases in the last 24 hours.
    • 3,279 patients are currently being treated in Austrian hospitals. 688 are in intensive care units.
    • 132 people have died in the last 24 hours. This is a new record.
      • In total, 3,018 have died from or with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
  • Between Nov. 13 and 25, the R-value was 0.87. This means that on average an infected person spreads the coronavirus to less than one person.
  • Yesterday the police filed 222 complaints against violations to the corona rules.
    • In totals, Austrian authorities have filed almost 3,000 complaints.
  • Italy will extend its nightly curfew that was introduced at the beginning of November until the end of the holidays. The government will pass a regulation with the anti-CoV requirements for the Christmas season next week.
    • Stores and restaurants may open in some regions. In others, such as Tuscany and South Tyrol, these will remain closed.
    • Anyone who travels abroad must quarantine upon returning to Italy.
    • The government will keep ski areas shut.

  • Vice Chancellor and Culture Minister Werner Kogler (The Greens) expects that the annual New Years concert in the Musikverein will take place without an audience.
    • Kogler did not say when cultural institutions, such as cinemas, theaters, and opera houses can reopen.
      • “Here I have to be careful with a projection, but I hope as soon as possible.”
  • Education Minister Faßmann wants to reopen schools starting Dec. 7. Local municipalities are now looking for separate rooms to provide safety in the classroom.
    • Where possible, classes should be held in large, “corona safe” rooms, said the minister.
    • If federal schools want to use publically-owned rooms, such as community halls, multi-purpose halls, or training rooms, the federal government has offered to reimburse the muncipalitiy for the additional expenses, including cleaning and heating.
  • Yesterday Chancellor Sebastian Kurz praised states and municipalities for their diligent planning of the mass tests that are scheduled for December.
  • In an interview, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio described the discussion about the ski ban during the Christmas season as “surreal.” “Not being allowed to ski is not a sacrifice,” Di Maio said.
    • According to Transport and Infrastructure Minister Paola De Micheli, winter tourism during the Christmas holidays could lead to an increase in cases.
      • “During the holiday season there is more social contact, which can lead to an increase in infections, as the high number of infections during that summer time has proven,” explained De Micheli.
    • The debate about the ski season has been going on for several days.
    • Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder called for ski areas to remain closed until January.
      • Tyrolean Governor Günther Platter sharply criticized this stance.
    • On the other hand, Switzerland, which is not part of the European Union, has decided to open its ski areas this winter.
      • “In Switzerland, the Federal Council, the authorities and the tourism industry are convinced that the Swiss path – for the moment – is the right one and that the winter season can take place safely,” said Markus Berger, spokesman for Switzerland Tourism.
  • Bookstores are expecting to see a dramatic drop in sales. Generally, the time before Christmas is the most important for the booksellers, in which 40% of all books are sold.
    • Currently, the stores have a 50% to 60% drop in sales, according to Gustav Soucek, managing director of the book trade association.

November 27, 2020

  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued a new assessment that a “vaccination rate of 60-70%” would probably mean herd immunity against the coronavirus.
    • With several vaccine candidates highly effective and close to approval, the focus is shifting to a potential roll-out of the vaccines.
    • In Austria, the vaccination will be free and voluntary. The government and experts hope that many people will get vaccinated.
    • Herd immunity does not mean a virus or disease is eliminated completely, but it would mean that uncontrolled spread is not taking place anymore (the main attribute of a pandemic) and that outbreaks are localized and traceable.
    • Since every virus has a different reproduction number (R) – i.e. how many people get infected on average by a person carrying the virus – different vaccination rates give herd immunity.
    • For COVID-19, the WHO puts R at 1.4 to 2.5 (i.e. one sick person infects between one-and-a-half and two-and-a-half other people).
    • With 60-70% of the population immunized – either through a vaccine or through having had the virus before – infection chains for the coronavirus would break off so often that R would fall permanently under 1 for most countries.

  • Estimates from The Economist based on UN population data calculated the vulnerability of different countries to COVID-19.
    • The data indicate that based on people’s age alone, you would expect the disease to be ten times more deadly in Italy than in Uganda.
    • This is based on infection fatality rates (IFRs) that were reported to the UN.
    • The actual death data bears some of that out, with European countries, North America and South America hit hardest by the virus.
    • The Economist writes:
      • “All else being equal, Japan is more vulnerable to covid-19 than any other country in the world. With a median age of 48, it has an expected IFR of 1.3%.
      • Italy, with a median age of 47, comes next at, 1.1%.
      • Europe as a whole has an expected IFR of 0.9%, by our reckoning, higher than that of America (0.7%), China (0.5%) or India (0.3%).
      • Countries in Africa, meanwhile, have an age-adjusted IFR of less than 0.2%.
      • Least vulnerable of all is Uganda, where the median age is just 17 and the expected IFR is a mere 0.1%, less than a tenth that of Japan or Italy.”
    • The vulnerability of European countries in general is thus not surprising, but the difference between them is. Germany and Italy would have the same general vulnerability according to their age profile, but deaths per capita in Italy (874 per million) have been more than four times higher than in Germany (186) so far.
    • Similarly, the death rate per capita in the United States (796) is significantly higher than in most other European countries – Austria included (290) – and the European Union as a whole (563), even though the comparably younger population of the US should reduce overall risk somewhat.
    • But it is specifically countries in East Asia and Oceania which managed to deal with the pandemic exceedingly well, despite being at risk – Japan recorded one of the lowest deaths per capita rates in the world (16), so did Australia (36) and New Zealand (5).

  • At the beginning of December, Vienna will conduct free mass tests of the Viennese population.
    • City Health Councillor Peter Hacker (SPÖ) counts on a “Viennese solution” following his criticism of the federal government. The city plans to conduct 1.2 million rapid antigen tests between December 2-13.
    • A total of 300 test lines will be set up in Vienna’s Stadthalle, Marxhalle in the 3rd district and the exhibition hall (Messehalle) near Prater.
    • Up to 150,000 people per day can be checked for a virus infection with antigen tests at all mass test locations.
    • On December 13, Vienna wants to have completed the mass testing drive.
    • Hacker explained that Vienna could be supported by about 200 experts from the Viennese blue-light organizations, possibly even complemented by some medical students next to the support the Austrian Armed Forces are already offering.
  • Interior Minister Karl Nehammer told APA that mass testing will begin for police officers on Dec. 7. All 39,000 employees can get tested twice.
    • Nehammer said that this double testing strategy is “an attractive offer that will provide more security and protection from the coronavirus during the pre-Christmas time.”
    • The system is modeled after a “one-stop-shop” strategy, where antigen tests and if needed, PCR tests, will all be conducted at one place shortly after one another.
    • Police offers will be tested between Dec. 7 and 10. The second series of tests will be conducted between Dec. 14 and 17.
  • In a press briefing, Health Minister Rudolf Anschober said, ”The hard lockdown is working.” In the coming weeks, the number of cases must continue to “decrease dramatically.”
    • 3.1% of the population is currently infected with the virus. This value is much higher than in the spring, said Anschober.
    • “We have arrived in the shallow,” there are no more peaks, and the infection has spread all over Austria, said Anschober.
    • He emphasized that the number of cases must reduce significantly during the second half of the lockdown.
      • Anschober appealed to the population to consider keeping their social contacts to a minimum in the coming weeks.
    • According to Anschober, Austria has conducted the most tests in Europe after the United Kingdom, Italy, and Italy.
    • Further details regarding the ski season will be announced next Wednesday.

  • There has been a “dramatic increase in I.C.U beds,” said Klaus Markstaller from the AKH. Most of the patients are working professionals. The demographic is also younger.
    • While Austria is “well equipped” compared to Switzerland, the capacity could be brought to its limits.
    • The number of patients being treated in I.C.U remains high and must be reduced, stressed Markstaller.

  • The federal government will cover “most” of the costs for the mass testing program.
    • According to Anschober, the government will pay the tests and the basic fees.
    • The state governments must pay the administrative and medical personnel and volunteers assisting in the tests.
      • Medical personnel will receive €45 per hour.
      • Volunteers will receive an hourly wage of €15.
      • The governments are pressuring the federal government to cover these costs too.

  • The government plans to release details for reopening schools on Wednesday. Education Minister Heinz Faßmann indicated that discussions will continue this weekend and during the beginning of next week.
    • “I know what I want,” said Faßman.
    • Experts prefer in-person instruction to distance learning.
    • Schools are not just a place for learning, but also a place for social interaction. Social contact is especially important for children.
    • Also, parents should not be responsible for teaching their kids.
    • Furthermore, there is a shortage of 1,400 laptops at schools, which makes distance learning difficult.

  • Vienna recorded 616 new cases today – 664 less than last Thursday. 684 patients are currently being treated in Viennese hospitals.
  • Austrian ministries reported 4,954 new infections today.
    • 4,405 patients are being treated in Austrian hospitals. 703 of which are in intensive care units.
    • 113 more people have died since yesterday, bringing the total number of deaths to 2,886.
    • The R-value is still over 1.
    • The seven-day incidence has declined to 383 per 100,000 residents.
  • The pandemic has caused a high death rate in Austria. Between Nov. 9 and 15, 2,286 people died in total, the third-highest number since 2000.
    • According to the AGES dashboard, 417 of the death were infected with the coronavirus.
    • In the following week, that number increased to 469.
    • The number of deaths are much higher than in spring.
    • Both Germany and Sweden have lower death rates.

  • In an interview with Ö1 Morgenjournal, the Mayor of Linz (Upper Austria) Klaus Luger expressed worries ahead of the mass tests.
    • He fears that the city won’t have enough volunteers to conduct the tests and that the online software won’t work.

November 26, 2020

  • The number of people infected with the coronavirus in Austria is probably more than thrice as high as known, according to a new representative study trying to estimate the number of under-reported cases.
    • The study conducted by Statistik Austria on behalf of the Ministry of Education, shortly before the second lockdown, came to the conclusion that the total number of infections from November 12-14 was probably around 228,000, representing 3.1% of the Austrian population.
    • Taking statistical margins of error into account, the probable interval lies between 166,000 and 295,000 people who carried the virus at that time, or a prevalence of 2.2% to 4.0%.
    • This compares to 66,923 known active cases at the moment, meaning that the number of actual cases is between two and four times higher than those that are currently being detected with testing.
    • A full 55% of the people found to be positive in the randomized sample study had not been identified as virus carriers before, confirming the findings of the study.
    • Conducted by the Red Cross and the Medical University of Vienna, the study tested a randomized group of 2,263 Austrian residents with nasopharyngeal swabbing from November 12-14 (the gross sample comprised a total of 7,823 persons aged 16 and up).
    • According to Statistik Austria General Director Tobias Thomas, the percentage was significantly higher in western Austria (Vorarlberg, Tyrol, Salzburg) than in eastern Austria (Lower Austria, Vienna, Burgenland).
    • ÖVP Education Minister Heinz Faßmann sees the high number of unreported cases as a clear sign that “instruments such as the upcoming mass tests are urgently needed to break the infection chains and contain the spread of the pandemic.”

  • Austrian ministries reported 5,526 new cases in the last 24 hours.
    • The number of known active cases fell by -276 (-0.4%) to a total of 66,923.
    • The federal states reported the following numbers of new infections:
      • Burgenland: 150
      • Carinthia: 414
      • Lower Austria: 756
      • Upper Austria: 507
      • Salzburg: 140
      • Styria: 746
      • Tyrol: 293
      • Vorarlberg: 105
      • Vienna: 575
    • The number of daily tests stands at around 33,000.
    • The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 fell by considerable -115 (-2.5%), to currently 4,461.
    • Of those, 705 are in intensive care, a slight decrease by -4 (+0.6%) to the day before.
    • Since yesterday, 106  people have died due to or with the virus. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 2,773 people in Austria have died due to COVID-19.

  • Around 240 retired former KAGes (Styrian Hospital Association) employees are currently receiving mail from their former employer.
    • In order to relieve the burden on younger colleagues during the pandemic, they are to take over services again.
    • “Of course, we mainly approach colleagues who served in intensive care units and in areas where CoV patients are being cared for. The second criterion is that we approach colleagues who have not been retired for too long,” said KAGes spokesman Reinhard Marzcik.
    • “The intensive care units are working at full capacity and the employees, some of whom have been on duty for nine months in full protective gear, have reached their limits,” said KAGes board members Karlheinz Tscheliessnigg and Ernst Fartek.
    • These substitute workers can earn unlimited additional income during their regular retirement without reducing their pension payments.

  • Because pregnant women belong to the coronavirus risk group, they will have a right to take time off from work from mid-December.
    • According to new medical findings of the Austrian Society for Gynecology and Obstetrics (ÖGGG), there is an increased probability of having a more severe version of COVID-19 when a woman is in a state of advanced pregnancy.
    • Minister of Labor Christine Aschbacher (ÖVP) wants to protect pregnant women who work in places where a minimum distance is not possible.
    • According to an estimate of the Ministry of Labor, approximately 4,500 pregnant women are concerned.
    • Self-employed persons are not covered by the new measure, but talks are already being held with the Ministry of Social Affairs, according to a statement by Aschbacher.
    • All blue-collar workers, federal employees, agricultural workers and freelancers are included however.
    • It will first be examined whether other protective measures can be taken or whether working from home is possible.
    • Like all current COVID-19 regulations, the measure expires in March 2021. After that, the situation will be evaluated.

  • According to reports, more than 500 regional test roads are needed in Upper Austria.
    • In Upper Austria, the voluntary antigen mass tests will start on December 5-6 with 38,000 teachers.
    • On December 7-8 it will be the turn of the state’s police officers.
    • On December 12-13, large-scale tests for the rest of the population will follow. 

  • Hungary is extending its border closure until February 1, 2021, which according to the Hungarian Official Gazette extends the strict border regime.
    • Foreigners may only enter Hungary with justified exceptions, while returning Hungarian citizens must be quarantined.
    • The number of newly infected persons in Hungary has dramatically increased in the past 24 hours to 6,360, almost double the number of the previous 24 hours.
    • 115 people died in connection with the virus, 7,537 are in hospital, 640 are on artificial respiration.
    • There are 45,750 people in quarantine; 1,566,619 million tests have been carried out. 

  • The 7-day-incidence in Austria has fallen to 414 per 100,000 inhabitants.
    • This is a sharp trend reversal, but on a much higher level than neighboring countries such as Germany (see below) and in line with the fall in new cases in many other neighbors (Switzerland, Czechia, Slovenia etc.).

  • In a letter to the government, the SPÖ pensioners’ association (PVÖ) has warned that people without computers or smartphones could be excluded from the coronavirus mass tests.
    • PVÖ president Peter Kostelka demands in the letter that the test participation of those people who have no internet access and no e-mail address must be ensured.
    • The government plans to digitize most of the coordination and planning of the rapid antigen mass testing program in order to avoid long crowds as seen in Slovakia.
    • However, digitalization can also make it harder for seniors to participate.
  • The ÖVP-Green government did not yet make any concrete announcements about how things will proceed after the end of the second lockdown on December 7.
    • Schools and shops will probably re-open. According to Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP), all further steps will depend on the CoV figures.
      o  Whether there will be regulations similar to that in Germany for Christmas and New Year’s Eve on how many people can meet will depend to a large extent on the number of new infections.
      o  “None of us are prophets,” Kurz said. Skiing is one of many areas that are difficult to assess at the moment. “Locking down is always easier than opening up,” Kurz added.
      o  The government intends to decide next Wednesday, November 2, in the Council of Ministers how exactly to proceed.
  • A batch of ten million CPA masks could be affected by a defect, emerged yesterday.
    • The masks were ordered by the Red Cross on behalf of the Ministry of Economics in the summer and allocated to the federal states by the Ministry of Health.
    • How many masks from the batch are actually affected is currently being investigated. The examination is taking place in close coordination with the federal states.
    • These masks are now being replaced, and in case of bottlenecks there are three million additional FFP2 masks available for the time being, according to the ministry
    • After the test showing the defect, all federal states were informed and asked to use the affected masks only as mouth-nose protection. 

November 25, 2020

  • Austrian ministries reported 5,802 new cases in the last 24 hours.
    • The number of known active cases fell by -727 (-1%) to a total of 68,786.
    • The federal states reported the following numbers of new infections:
      • Burgenland: 114
      • Carinthia: 612
      • Lower Austria: 727
      • Upper Austria: 1.385
      • Salzburg: 426
      • Styria: 828
      • Tyrol: 629
      • Vorarlberg: 195
      • Vienna: 886
    • The number of daily tests is high and stable around 30,000, almost three times the testing rate of the summer.
    • The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 fell by considerable -113 (-2.4%), to currently 4,576.
    • Of those, 709 are in intensive care, a slight increase by +5 (+0.7) to the day before.
    • Since yesterday, 90 people have died due to or with the virus. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 2,667 people in Austria have died due to COVID-19.

  • The Austrian government is still working out the details of its strategy to mass test members of selected professions and the public in the coming weeks.
    • The Austrian federal army (Bundesheer) will be tasked with helping local health authorities in administering the rapid antigen tests.
    • However, only health authorities will be allowed to issue decrees of isolation or other official communication.
    • A digital booking system should keep waiting times to a minimum – the Austrian government claims to have learned from experiences with mass testing in Slovakia and South Tyrol.
    • Officers of Austria’s federal army said that testing teachers, staff at kindergartens and medical staff can be done with proper preparation, but that testing large swathes of the population will necessitate support and cooperation from local councils and municipalities. Currently, the government is considering to use the structures in place for elections to also administer the rapid antigen tests.
    • Thomas Szekeres, President of the Austrian Doctors’ Association, said that mass testing will be a “logistical challenge” but one that could help contain the virus – if people realize that a negative test is not a “license to be careless” and if mass testing will continue in regular intervals.
    • Below, you can find an overview of the stages of the rapid antigen test campaign as it is currently planned.
  • Recent days have brought some encouraging news from within Austria and abroad.
    • The number of new daily infections in Austria has fallen from around 8,000 last week to about 4,000 this week, which is a positive trend.
    • Schools and shops are likely to be reopened on December 7, students older than 14 years will probably still continue distance teaching.
    • The government said they are currently working on plans to make the Christmas holidays as normal as possible – mass testing before the holidays and fewer restrictions are some of the strategies pursued.
    • The ski season is still being hotly debated in Austria and across Europe, but it seems likely that lift operators and hotels will be allowed to open with certain restrictions.
    • Finally, there are now three very promising vaccine candidates – Pfizer/Biontech, Moderna and Astra Zeneca – which might be approved still at the end of this year or early next year.
  • Austria’s 7-day-incidence of new coronavirus cases keeps falling and is now down to (still high) 432 new infections per 100,000 people.
    • The divergence between Austria’s federal state is quite marked at this point, with Vienna now having the lowest incidence (296) and Salzburg currently with the highest (640).
  • Meanwhile, in France the corona curve has been crushed by the recent second lockdown.
    • New daily cases are down to around 4,000, compared to over 80,000 just a little over two weeks ago.
    • In Austria, this would correspond to a fall from 12,000 to only 600 a day, approximately.

November 24, 2020

  • This year companies can deduct vouchers for their employees from their tax payments. These will serve as a replacement for the annual company Christmas parties.
    • “We have currently regulated in the Income Tax Act that a company can deduct 365 Euro per year for its employees for company celebrations, Christmas parties and summer parties, so to speak. And this amount is also tax-exempt for employees, ”explained August Wöginger.
  • The government has hired an external company to develop a digital process system for the pre-Christmas mass tests. Also, the Bundesheer will play a central role in the testing to avoid long lines.
    • At a press conference, Defense Minister Klaudia Tanner said that everything, from booking an appointment to receiving the test result, will run on a single program.
      • This way, we can avoid crowds in test centers.
    • Major General Rudolf Striedinger stated that the tests planned for teachers and the police will not be a logistical problem. However, testing the broader population will be a challenge.
    • Slovakia and South Tyrol will serve as a guide for Austria’s mass tests.
      • The figures from Slovakia show how time-consuming and labor-intensive the mass tests are.
      • There, more than 3.6 million people were tested in the first round.
      • The country has 5.5 million inhabitants, all ten to 65-year-olds were called to test.
      • 40,000 people were deployed to process it, including 10,000 soldiers and 10,000 police officers, according to Striedinger.
      • In Slovakia there was no digital pre-registration, the people waited on the spot for their results, which resulted in long queues, said Striedinger.
    • Austria wants to prevent queues, and, therefore, plans to rely heavily on digitization.
  • Upper Austria is creating external facilities to house COVID-19 patients that no longer need acute treatment. 142 beds will be made available in three locations.
  • The European Union has reached an agreement with the American pharmaceutical company Moderna for their vaccine. Tomorrow the EU Commission with formalize the deal, which will provide Europe with up to 160 million doses.
    • Austria would receive 2% or 3.2 million doses of the vaccine.
  • At a press conference today, Health Minister Rudolf Anschober presented the vaccine strategy. He assured that vaccinating will begin in January and said that Austria has two goals: starting quickly and achieving a high vaccination rate.
    • Anschober indicated that the goal is that at least 50% of the population will receive the corona vaccine.
      • “We want to achieve a gradual risk reduction”, said Anschober. “The higher the vaccination rate in Austria, the lower the risk should be.”
    • The vaccinations will be staggered, members of risk groups, people above age 65 in nursing and elderly homes, and healthcare workers will be vaccinated in the first quarter of 2021.
    • Starting in the second quarter of 2021, the general population will be vaccinated.
    • Ideally, one million doses could already be available in the country in January, said the special representative of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Clemens-Martin Auer.
    • Auer expects 2 million more doses in February and March.
    • The federal government has set aside 200 million Euro to purchase the vaccine, and Austria has already secured 16.5 million doses.
    • Auer, stressed that the vaccine must be a joint effort among European states. The more doses that can be produced in Europe, the better it is for the world, said Auer.
    • 70% of all vaccines come from Europe.
  • At the press conference, Anschober also answered questions about the upcoming mass tests.
    • The government will imitate Slovakia and South Tyrol. Both did not conduct contact tracing during the time of nationwide testing, and Austria plans to follow this same approach, said the Health Ministry.
    • The government also aims to do post-testing – whether this will be done using a PCR or antigen test is still to be decided.
    • However, Anschober warned that the tests are only a daily indicator.
  • Austrian ministries recorded a slightly lower number of new infections – 4,377 in the last 24 hours.
    • 118 people died since yesterday, bringing the total number of deaths from or with COVID-19 to 2,577.
    • 4,689 are currently being treated in Austrian hospitals. 141 people were hospitalized in the last 24 hours.
    • For the first time ever, more than 700 patients – 704 – are being treated in intensive care units.
      • However, the increase in I.C.U patients is currently at 7%. This is lower than the all-time-high, which was 30%.
    • 7,000 people have recovered since yesterday.
    • According to the AGES dashboard, the seven-day incidence is 432 per 100,000 residents.
  • Germany is in the process of deciding their measures for the holidays. The rules will be ratified with Chancellor Angela Merkel tomorrow.
    • The federal state leaders are planning an “exceptional phase” for Dec. 23 and Jan. 1.
      • Most likely, Germany will allow meetings with a maximum of ten people. Children up to age 14 will be exempt from this order.
        • This mean Christmas parties will be possible.
      • In addition, the federal heads recommend a self-quarantine before Christmas and starting Christmas vacation early, on Dec. 19.
      • According to the new agreement, New Year’s Eve fireworks will be prohibited in public places to avoid larger groups.
      • However, there will be no sale ban on firework rockets. But leaders discourage private fireworks this year.
    • In the period leading up to Christmas, the Germany government will tighten contact restrictions even further.
      • Until Dec. 20, contact will be limited to two households and a maximum of five people should be allowed.
      • The current partial lockdown will continue to apply.
      • The mask requirement will be tightened.
      • In addition, the federal states want the seven-day incidence to be “well” below 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants.
  • According to the Medical University in Danzig, eight coronavirus infections were detected in a Polish mink farm.
  • Yesterday evening, representatives of the Federal Government discussed the procedure for the planned CoV mass tests with the state governors and municipal representatives in a video conference.
    • State leaders agreed that full contact tracing is not the current goal. It will not be required.
      • “We will do the contact tracing – as far as it is possible – but it is not compulsory, and that of course relieves our staff structure a lot,” said Salzburg’s Health Councilor Christian Stöckl.
      • Those who test positive will be ordered to quarantine after a second test – this should be an antigen test and not the more precise PCR test. Their contacts will only be tracked on a case-by-case basis.
    • In a written statement Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) stated, “On the way back to normality, mass testing and vaccinations are the two decisive factors in the coming weeks and months.”
  • According to simulation researcher Niki Popper, the lockdown measures will begin to take effect this week. A significant decrease of positive tests and a relief for intensive care beds can be expected.
    • “We will see an even greater drop in the number of people who test positive every day,” said Popper. “We also expect that this week the peak in intensive care units will be reached, and then, there will be a relief.”
    • The researcher called the opening of Christmas markets “a difficult topic.” The markets are outdoors, he says, but on the other hand, people congregate in groups, increasing the risk of infection.

November 23, 2020

  • Today Health Minister Rudolf Anschober said that there are first signs of improvement. However, he emphasized that starting Dec. 7, there will only be a “step-by-step” reopening. One condition is that the R-value must be 0.9 or lower, preferably at 0.8.
    • The current R-value is 1.02.
    • Anschober stressed that we will have a better idea of the effect of the second lockdown at the end of this week.
    • He said that the time before Christmas will “definitely not” take place “without measures.”
    • It remains unclear what will be reopened. However, it seems that schools will be the first.
      • He stated that there will be “no opening like before the pandemic.”
      • Protective measures will be needed “so we don’t stumble into a third lockdown at a fast tempo over the holidays,” Anschober said.
    • Anschober is skeptical whether there will be a traditional Saint Nicholas Day on Dec. 8.
    • The Health Ministry is working on an individual concept for the population over 65, which includes increased use of the “Stop Corona” app and contact tracing.
      • Anschober announced a “further significant” increase in staff for contact tracing.
    • Anschober acknowledges that we now want to come “to the vaccination.” However, this, too, is a step-by-step process. Even with a vaccine, the risk will only be gradually reduced and not suddenly disappear.
      • He expects that provided the necessary approval is obtained, vaccination can begin in January.
      • The government is expected to release the vaccine strategy in the next few days.
      • For now, it remains broad: from vaccination stations to vaccinations in companies to visiting old people’s homes.
  • The start of this year’s winter season is still uncertain. However, there remains hope that cases will drop by Christmas. Austrian ski tourism is hoping for a Christmas miracle.
    • Tyrolean Governor Günther Platter said that hotels, restaurants, cable could open due to the fixed cost subsidy.
  • Starting today afternoon, firms can apply for a Fixkostenzuschuss (lump-sum corona aid) if their income fell by at least 30%.
    • The government has now extended this aid package from mid-September to June 2021.
    • Each firm can get a maximum of 800,000 Euro.
    • Finance Minister Gernot Blümel (ÖVP) und Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler (Greens) said that another aid scheme providing up to three million Euro in December.
      • This subsidy is only paid for that part of the fixed costs that is not covered by corporate profits.
  • As of today, businesses that had to close during this lockdown can also apply for the revenue replacement.
    • As previously announced, service providers receive 80 percent of the previous year’s turnover as compensation for the forced closure, while retailers receive between 20 and 60 percent.
  • Austrian ministries reported 3,145 new cases in the last 24 hours, as of 09:30 today.
    • This is one of the lowest daily numbers in one month.
    • The number of known active cases in Austria fell by -3,193 (-4.2%) to a total of 72,347.
    • The number of hospitalizations for COVID-19 rose by +90 (+2%) to currently 4,538.
    • Of those, 685 are in intensive care, an increase of +2 (+0.3%) since yesterday.
    • Another 71 people died due to or with the virus since yesterday. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 2,459 people in Austria died due to COVID-19.
    • According to the AGES dashboard, the seven-day incidence is currently 454.
  • A vaccine developed by British company Astra Zeneca and the University of Oxford showed efficacy between 70-90% in trial readouts.
    • Following news of efficacy around 95% of the Pfizer/Biontech and Moderna vaccines, this is another encouraging sign that vaccination works very well against the coronavirus.
    • The trial had several tracks with different adjusted dosages, so scientists showed themselves confident that the higher efficacy can be reached with fine-tuning.
    • Perfecting the does could bring efficacy up to 90%, the data suggests.
    • Furthermore, the Oxford jab is far cheaper, and is easier to store and get to every corner of the world than the other two vaccines – particularly crucial for the developing world.
  • New infections in Europe have been falling for over a month now from their peak on October 27.
    • In the meantime, new infections in the US have risen with a time lag and are currently plateauing at a higher level, as US states begin to shut down again.
  • German Health Ministers Jens Spahn has said that he expected the first Germans to get a vaccine jab still this year.
    • The German government asked the federal states to ready vaccination centers which, according to Spahn, many have done.
    • Germany has ordered over 300 million doses of several different vaccines, several times over the amount that would be needed the vaccinate the entire population – if all the vaccines come through.
  • UNICEF wants to send two billion doses of the vaccine and one billion syringes to a total of 92 poor countries.
  • Due to rising cases, Luxembourg plans to enter a partial lockdown until mid-December.
    • Bars, restaurants, cinemas, and gyms will be shut until Dec. 15.
    • Stores would remain open, but customers will be required to wear masks and keep distance.

November 22, 2020

  • While the number of new infections in Austria is still very high, the curve has been bending in for some time now.
    • All federal states except for Salzburg and Carinthia have seen a decrease in the 3-day moving average of new cases recently.
    • The doubling time of cases is going down, too – the longer the doubling time, the slower the spread of the virus.
      • In Vienna, the curve has flattened the furthest, with currently the longest doubling time (31 days).
      • Then follow the Burgenland (26 days), Tyrol (24 days), Lower Austria (23 days), Vorarlberg (21 days), Styria (19 days) and Salzburg (17 days).
      • Only in Salzburg (17 days) and Carinthia (11 days) are the doubling times still shortening.

  • Today, for the first time since October 25, the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units in Austrian hospitals has decreased.

  • South Tyrol is currently conducting mass testing with rapid antigen tests.
    • Out of a population of 530,000, a total of 350,000 are called on to get tested on several weekends.
    • So far, 269,901 people got tested, which is 48.8% of the entire population.
    • Of those, 2,626 participants tested positive for the virus, that is 1% – a number similar to the experience in Slovakia.
    • In total, there are currently 11,624 active known cases of the virus in South Tyrol.

  • Austrian ministries reported 5,226 new infections in the last 24 hours.
    • With 928 cases, Upper Austria reported the most new infections, followed by 914 in Lower Austria, 632 in Styria, 586 in Carinthia, 575 in Tyrol, 496 in Salzburg, 485 in Vienna, 441 in Vorarlberg, and 169 in Burgenland
    • 4,458 patients are currently being treated in Austrian hospitals. 683 are in intensive care units.
    • 60 more people died from or with COVID-19 since yesterday, bringing the total number of deaths to 2,388.
  • In a press briefing, Health Minister Rudolf Anschober said that today’s number of new cases are “dramatically high for a Sunday.”
    • However, Anschober is relieved that the number of hospitalized cases declined a bit for the first time in a few weeks. The number of patients in intensive care units also decreased by 14. But at the same time, the number of deaths remain very high.
    • “It is very obvious that we observed a stabilization (on a dramatically high level) but no substantial reduction in new infections throughout the partial lockdown, which started two and a half weeks ago,” said Anschober.
    • As of right now, he stated that the “hard” lockdown has not had an effect. “Towards the end of the coming week, however, there must be clear reductions in new infections,” he emphasized. “We should avoid all unnecessary contacts.”
  • In an interview on ORF, Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler refused to provide details regarding the time after the lockdown. “I assume that we will reach our goal,” he said with regard to the planned end of the measures.
    • However, he indicated that uncertainty remains. “Nothing is fixed in these times,” Kogler said about the easing of restrictions after Dec. 6. The government must proceed “gradually and carefully,” and he hopes there will be “as many opening days as possible” for shops by Christmas Eve.
    • He indicated that reopening schools is especially important.
    • He also said that the mass testing should not be an uncoordinated strategy.
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency authorization of the coronavirus antibody treatment given to US President Donald Trump.
    • The treatment by biotech company Regeneron consists of two powerful antibodies and can be used to treat patients over the age of 12, who are at a high risk of developing severe symptoms.
    • The treatment is not authorized for all hospitalized patients or those who require oxygen.
    • The federal government will provide the first 300,000 doses for free, however, the patients may be charged for medical care in clinics or hospitals.
    • According to the New York Times, Regeneron can produce enough of the drug to treat 80,000 people by the end of November, 200,000 by the first week of January, and 300,000 by the end of January.
    • The company has reportedly received 500 million dollars from the Trump administration to develop and produce the medication.
  • A corona expert from The Who warned European governments of a third wave. “They failed to build the necessary infrastructure in the summer months after they had brought the first wave under control,” said David Navarro of the WHO in an interview with Swiss newspapers.
    • “Now the second wave is here. If they don’t build the necessary infrastructure now, we will experience a third wave at the beginning of the coming year,” Navarro said.
  • In yesterday’s virtual G-20 summit, leaders highlighted the need to unite in the fight against the pandemic. “To contain the pandemic, access to the vaccine must be made possible and affordable for every country,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
    • Together with French President Emmanuel Macron, Merkel is pushing for an equal distribution of the vaccine.
  • The Austrian Health Insurance Fund (ÖGK) is pressuring the federal government for financial aid. In their last round of negotiations more than five weeks ago, the federal government promised an agreement “in the next few days,” but nothing has happened since.
    • According to chairman Andreas Huss, the government has neither proposed a new negotiation date nor offered financial assistance.
    • ÖGK is estimated to suffer a loss of €200 million as a result of the pandemic.

  • Parent unions and psychologists are criticizing the Education Ministry for providing too little information about distance learning at schools.

  • Burgenland’s state leader Hans Peter Doskozil (SPÖ) tested positive for the coronavirus. According to his office, “he is doing well given the circumstances,” and is only experiencing light symptoms.

  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson does not want to extend the lockdown in the country, which is set to end on Dec. 2. Tomorrow he will announce a plan for regional restrictions.
    • The lockdown “helped bring the virus under control” and reduce the pressure on the National Health Service (NHS), said the British government.
    • After the current lockdown ends, the government wants to increase the number of regions with strict measures and fight the pandemic in a targeted manner.

November 21, 2020

  • Austrian ministries reported 6,611 new cases within the last 24 hours.
    • 104 more people died from or with COVID-19 since yesterday. This brings the total number of deaths to 2,224.
    • 4,597 patients are currently being treated within Austrian hospitals. 697 are in intensive care units.
    • There are 76,883 active infections within the country.
  • Ahead of the G-20 meeting, leaders are calling for a united fight against the pandemic. Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson has been especially vocal, pushing for an equal distribution of the corona vaccine.
    • American President Donald Trump will also attend the virtual meeting.
    • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stressed that the pandemic increased the responsibility of the G-20. “The pandemic has again reminded us that we are members of a great family of humanity, regardless of heritage, language, race, and religion,” Erdogan said.
    • Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered his vaccine to the international community.
  • Since beginning of the “hard” second lockdown on Tuesday, the police has issued 796 complaints for violating the corona restrictions. The most of which were filed in Vienna (296), followed by 120 in Upper Austria, and 104 in Lower Austria.
  • Health Minister Rudolf Anschober expects that Austria will receive the first corona vaccine at the beginning of 2021. The government will write and release its vaccine strategy, clarifying who will receive the vaccine and the legal aspects, in the “next weeks.” The vaccine will be free.
    • The EU has ordered 200 million doses of the BioNTech and Pfizer vaccine, and Austria will receive 4 million, with which it hopes to vaccinate every second person twice.
      • BioNTech and Pfizer expects to produce 50 million doses of the vaccine by the end of the year, half of the amount that they promised in summer.
    • Anschober has already hinted that nursing and elderly homes will be the first to receive the vaccine. After that, the government will negotiate with the economy, Labor Chamber, and unions to discuss the next steps.
      • According to the Health Ministry high-risk and “vulnerable groups” will be vaccinated in the first phase, including healthcare workers.
    • One challenge will be storing the vaccine, as it must be kept at very low temperatures, about -70 degrees Celsius, such that the RNA strands don’t break down.
      • The German postal service DHL is considering purchasing hundreds of Ultralow Freezers.
      • The Health Ministry told ORF that BioNTech and Pfizer have been collaborating closely with the EU and is working to distribute the vaccine in a sustainable fashion.
        • The pharmaceutical company has developed special cooling suitcases with dry ice, in which their vaccine can survive over a longer period of time.
    • Another challenge will be vaccinating itself. The vaccine won’t be in separate glass bottles with a needle as we know it. The bottles must first be assembled, which will take time.
    • Further questions include how the vaccine will be documented. The Health Ministry is considering developing an electronic vaccine pass, which it had already mentioned in spring.
    • According to a recent survey, around 50 percent of the Austrian population wants to get the vaccine.
  • Officials in Upper Austria stressed that shopping trips to Germany are strictly prohibited. Crossing the border to Germany is only allowed to fulfill basic needs (ie. food). Individuals who disregard this ruling may be subject to fines if caught.
  • “One of the central problems” of the mass testing, which will begin on Dec. 5, is the uncertainty of the antigen rapid tests, said Anschober in an interview with the Austrian daily newspaper Die Presse.
    • The government plans to “retest” those who test positive.
    • This weekend, Anschober said that the government will analyze the mass testing scheme in South Tyrol. So far, he believes the best strategy includes multiple testing options and strong digitalization to reduce waiting times.
  • South Tyrol has reported delays in its mass testing program. Around 10 percent of the test results are missing, because participants either submitted no or the wrong contact information.
    • So far, 160,000 people have participated in the initiative, and 350,00 more are urged to get tested until tomorrow.
  • Today Finance Minister Gernot Blümel and Tourism Minister Elisabeth Köstinger announced that the corona aid, including tax cuts, the liability package and the tax deferrals, will be extended and renewed from Jan 15. to March 31. 
    • During the same period, no deferred interest or late payment surcharges will be set. The tax breaks for employees will be extended until the end of March despite Kurzarbeit (short-time employment), teleworking, and quarantine. In spite of everything, the commuter allowance should be granted in full. The same applies to allowances such as difficulty and danger.
    • The sales tax for COVID-19 tests and vaccinations will be reduced to 0 percent. The necessary motions for this were introduced in the National Council’s meeting yesterday.
  • A study conducted by the Caritas in collaboration with numerous Viennese research institutes found that a test program with RT-Lamp or PCR-tests could reduce corona clusters in elderly and nursing homes.
    • Employees should be tested twice a week, and the test results must be processed quickly to stop the spread of the virus within these facilities.
  • The R-value is 1.02, lower than the week before (1.21).
  • Lower Austria is still looking for contact tracers. The state is specifically seeking interested individuals with high school degrees (Matura) and university students concentrating on human medicine.
  • The EU Commission has approved the Fixkostenzuschuss II (lump-sum corona aid), but limited it to 3 million Euro per firm.
    • Initially, Austrian Finance Minister Gernot Blümel had pressed for 5 million Euro.
    • Starting Monday, firms will be able to apply for 800,000 Euro in aid. Details for the 3 million Euro package will be processed then.
  • 195,000 new infections were reported in the United States yesterday, another all-time-high.

November 20, 2020

  • Pfizer and BioNTech will reportedly filed for emergency authorization of their coronavirus vaccine today, which means it could be available by mid- to late December.
    • The Federal Drug Administration plans to review the vaccine and meet with Pfizer on Dec. 10.
  • The first coronavirus mass tests are ready. Testing will begin on the first weekend of December, on Dec. 5 and 6. Federal and national teachers and kindergarten caregivers (around 200,00 people) will be tested. Participation is voluntary.
    • On Dec. 7 and 8, the country’s 40,000 police officers will be tested.
    • Additionally, people living in select places that have a high incidence value can get tested in the first week of December.
    • Shortly before Christmas, the government plans to test the whole population.
    • In the beginning of the new year, the government is expected to conduct a second series of mass testing.
    • The government has ordered 7 million rapid antigen tests for €50 million and is planning to order even more.

  • According to the Corona commission, the source of infection is only known in 19% of the cases.
    • About 10% of cases are asymptomatic.
    • This makes test & trace extremely difficult, necessitating the current hard lockdown.

  • Since this week, pharmacies in Austria can offer rapid antigen tests right on the spot.
    • After an early stage where official approval was still pending, now 74 pharmacies across the country sell such tests.
    • Here you can find a full list of all pharmacies who currently sell the rapid antigen test. The list will be updated regularly by the Austrian Apothecary Chamber.
    • The earliest to offer this service, the Marien Apotheke in Vienna’s 6th district, was told to stop selling the tests a few weeks ago by the authorities. Now, they offer it again for €20.75 per person. An appointment can be booked here.
    • Pharmacies in all federal states now offer the test, with citizens of Upper Austria (14 pharmacies), Vienna (13) and Vorarlberg (11) having the most choices, followed by Lower Austria (9), Salzburg (9), Styria (8), Tyrol (4), Carinthia (4) and Burgenland (2).
  • Since the beginning of May, 100,000 PCR tests have been conducted at Vienna’s airport.
  • Vienna’s tourism industry has been hard-hit by the crisis. In October, overnight stays dropped by 84.5% since to last year.
    • In total, only 242, 000 overnight stays were recorded, half of which were Austrian guests.
    • This year Viennese hotels have earned 209 million Euro.
  • Austrian ministries reported 6,708 new infections in the last 24 hours.
    • The number of known active infections in the country fell slightly by -382 (-0.5%) to 76,644 cases.
    • The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 rose slightly by +15 (+0.3%) to 4,629.
    • Of those, 687 are in intensive care, an increase of +4 (+0.6%) since yesterday.
    • In the last 24 hours, 108 people died from or with COVID-19, one of the highest death tolls on any one day so far. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 2,224 people in Austria died from the virus.
    • According to the AGES dashboard, the seven-day incidence is currently 479.9 per 100,000 residents.
  • Experts from the telecommunications company A1 and Invenium said mobility has decreased dramatically since Tuesday compared to the “light” lockdown. This is due to the closure of shops and transition to distance learning in Austrian schools. However, experts also indicated that there are signs of corona fatigue.
    • Data is collected during the day via SIM-cards in your phones.
    • In the year, people are on average mobile 73% of the time. During the lockdown in spring, mobility declined to 45% and less. The beginning of the “soft” second lockdown on Nov. 3 brought mobility down to 63%, but experts say this was due to school closures following the Nov. 2 terrorist attack. On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, mobility was 57%
    • On Tuesday, more than 80% less people were on the Mariahilfer Straße compared to a Tuesday in November 2019.
  • According to Health Minister Rudolf Anschober, the government is working “very intensively” on an “all-around” plan for the time after the end of the lockdown on Dec. 6.
    • The Austrian government aims to increase the speed of contact tracing and better protect the elderly. In addition, the state will offer “more testing.”
    • “It must be our goal to prevent a third wave and to permit Christmas celebrations in the inner family circle,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said yesterday.
    • Without a fitting strategy, doctors warn that Austria will approach “the next wave and next lockdown.”
    • President of the Doctors Chamber Thomas Szekeres stressed that the state must work to maintain hospital capacity. He hopes that Austria can just barely avoid the worst-case scenario (collapse of the health care system).
      • Furthermore, he said that an international, anonymous data bank stating capacity must be created.
      • He also appealed to the population to continue practicing basic health care measures (washing hands, wearing a mask, airing rooms, and keeping social distance) and utilizing the Stopp-Corona-App.
    • Vice President Herwig Lindner demanded “a good [testing] concept.” The infectiologist sees “a lot of room for improvement in the current testing strategy.”
      • He believes that too few doctors are on duty at the 1450 corona hotline, which leads to backlogs and long waiting times.
  • A top official from the WHO said that someone in Europe is dying every 17 seconds from COVID-19.
  • Vorarlberg has already announced a plan for schools for after the end of the lockdown. The state plans to stagger classes to prevent large gatherings in school buses and buildings.
  • Federal states, including Salzburg, Lower Austria, and Upper Austria, complained that the states lacks personnel for mass testing and contact tracing.
    • Mass testing is expecting to begin on Dec. 6.
  • In their weekly meeting, the corona commissioned decided that Austria remains red.
  • Schools are officially closed but continue to offer care if needed. In Vienna, every second child has continued to go to school despite the “hard” lockdown. In Viennese kindergartens, two-thirds of all children come.
  • Germany recorded 23, 648 new infections today, setting a new record.
  • Italy announced that it wants to begin vaccinating its population at the beginning of 2021. The Italian government estimates that the state will receive 3.4 million doses of the corona vaccine by January.
    • Initially, the government will not require Italians to get the vaccine.
    • Government Commissioner Domenico Arcuri told reporters that they hope that a large portion of the Italian population will get vaccinated by the third quarter of 2021.
    • Due to a rise in cases, Italy is increasing its availability of intensive care beds from 8,995 to over 11,200.

November 19, 2020

  •  In the past two weeks, the number of deaths associated with Covid-19 disease has increased by 18%, said Hans Kluge, Director of the WHO European Region, at an online press conference in Copenhagen today.
    • More than 29,000 deaths were recorded last week, which means that every 17 seconds, one person in the Europe dies from Covid-19.
    • The fact that 4,500 lives are currently lost to Covid-19 per day is avoidable, said Kluge. Those who adhere to guidelines and take action against misinformation, he said, are making a contribution to preventing deaths.
    • Kluge also had positive things to report: Thanks to the observance of prudent behavior, the number of weekly new infections fell from more than two million in the previous week, to an estimated 1.8 million. “This is a small signal, but a signal nonetheless,” so Kluge.
    • According to the Regional Director, 28 percent of all worldwide infections registered to date and 26 percent of all coronavirus deaths recorded globally are attributable to Europe.
    • In the European Region, which includes more than 50 countries, there have been around 15.8 million infections and almost 355,000 related deaths to date, according to the WHO.

  • Austrian ministries reported 6,995 new infections since yesterday, as of 09:30 today.
    • The number of known active cases has increased by +3,851 (+3.43%) to 112,234.
    • Health Minister Rudolf Anschober (Greens) called the new numbers “stagnation on an extremely high level.”
    • The new cases are distributed among the federal states in the following way:
      • Upper Austria: 1,706
      • Vienna: 1,188
      • Lower Austria: 985
      • Burgenland: 145
      • Carinthia: 482
      • Salzburg: 495
      • Styria: 726
      • Tyrol: 913
      • Vorarlberg: 355
    • Austria’s 7-day-incidence receded slightly to 525 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants.
    • In the last 24 hours, 62(+3%) people died from or with the virus. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 2,116 people in the country have died due to COVID-19.
    • A total of 5,297 patients with COVID-19 have been hospitalized, an increase of +23 (0.6%).
    • Of those, 683 are in intensive care, an increase of +1 (+0.1%) since yesterday.
    • The number of total tests conducted since the beginning of the pandemic has increased to a record 2,787,606.
  • More than half of all Covid-19 deaths in retirement homes – 323 of 607 – have been recorded in the last 40 days alone.
    • In total, 38% (607 deaths) of all CoV deaths (1,608) reported in nursing and old people’s homes, 323 of them in the period October 1 to November 12 alone.
    • In Burgenland, all 15 deaths in homes were due to the second wave.
    • In homes in Lower Austria, 81 of the 89 coronavirus deaths (91%) have died since October, in Upper Austria 62 of 76 (82%).
    • Vorarlberg currently has the lowest CoV mortality rate in homes at 27% (for of a total of 15 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic).
    • In Tyrol, Salzburg and Styria this proportion is between 32 and 38%, in Vienna it is 43% (75 of 174 deaths).
    • The Austrian average is therefore 53%.
    • 1,150 coronavirus deaths (until 12 November) were over 75 years of age, 520 of them in the group of 75- to 84-year-olds and 630 older than 85.
    • “Unfortunately, many state governors have done nothing at all here” criticized NEOS social spokesman Gerald Loacker.
  • Over 9,000 CoV tests were conducted in Vienna on Tuesday. This is because rapid antigen tests, which can also be purchased by private individuals, are not included in the official statistics. The Crisis Committee of the City of Vienna is calling for a ban for tests for the home.
    • If the result is positive at an official site – for example in the city’s “check boxes” – a PCR test is performed to check the result. The final PCR result also appears in the official CoV statistics.
    • If a private person purchases a rapid antigen test, for example on the Internet or in pharmacies, and the test is performed at home, the results are not included in any statistics. It is also feared that a falsified result may be obtained through incorrect use.
    • A further problem could arise if positive results are concealed – since there is of course no monitoring in private homes.
    • The city’s medical crisis team assumes that the proportion of private rapid tests will increase. A remedy could be a ban on such tests for private individuals. But that is a matter for politicians to decide.
    • “The difference is that the rapid antigen tests can be performed without the need for laboratories or equipment,” explained Günter Schleinzer, Sales Manager of the pharmaceutical and biotech company Szabo-Scandic. Nevertheless, testing “should be carried out by medically trained personnel,” Schleinzer emphasized.
    • “The antigen tests are not yet quite as reliable as the well-known PCR tests,” said the sales manager. But especially highly infectious persons, the so-called superspreaders with strong symptoms, should be able to be filtered out better with them.
    • While the PCR test with laboratory evaluation costs around €120, the rapid antigen test costs €20-60, with enormous differences in quality.
  • Kathrin Gaal (SPÖ), Vienna’s city councillor for housing, demands that the federal government provide protection against termination or eviction for tenants who are in default of payment as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
    • This protection is to apply to all rent arrears that arise until June 2021.
    • A corresponding regulation in the course of the lockdown in spring, which covered a period until this June, was far too tight and would have to be extended, Gaal said on Thursday.
    • As far as the city’s own sphere of action – i.e. community housing – is concerned, Vienna has maintained the CoV-related stop of eviction since spring, Gaal emphasized.
    •  She called on all tenants who are in payment difficulties to contact Wiener Wohnen as early as possible to draw up a payment plan.
    • Gaal also demanded that expiring time limits be frozen “for the period of the current exceptional situation.”
  • In Germany, new coronavirus regulations were adopted on Wednesday. In the run-up to the decision, demonstrations took place in Berlin and were dispersed by the police.
  • The Greek Orthodox Archbishop Hieronymos II was brought to the Athens hospital Evangelismos this morning with a coronavirus infection.
    • The 82-year-old clergyman has symptoms and a slight fever and is therefore being treated in the intensive care unit as a precaution, the Greek television station Skai reported.
    • Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the attitude of the Church in Greece has been repeatedly criticized. Social networks circulated videos of services without masks and of believers who continued to kiss icons in churches as usual.
    • One clergyman even advocated the use of holy water, which could prevent infections.
    • At the end of last week, Jerome II met with the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to discuss the opening of churches at Christmas. However, he had done a coronavirus test before the meeting and was not yet infected at that time, the church said.

November 18, 2020

  • The City of Vienna has opened its third so-called “check box” container where people who have symptoms of a cold or rhinitis can get rapid antigen test for SARS-CoV-2.
    • This third “check box” was set up in Vienna’s 22nd district Donaustadt, in the Erzherzog-Karl-Straße 227-229.
    • The other two “check boxes” containers are:
      • In the 10th district, Favoriten, in the Ludwig von Höhnelgasse 2,
      • And in the 16th district, Ottakring, on the Mildeplatz opposite to No. 8.
    • Before a visit, it is advised to make an appointment online. The “check boxes” operate daily from 07:00 to 19:00.
    • Medical personnel and doctors will help and advise anyone with symptoms, no matter what the concrete test result will be.
    • The Viennese are called to come there wearing a mask and to bring their e-card and a photo ID.
  • Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) announced in an interview last Sunday that the government plans a mass testing campaign with rapid antigen tests towards the end of the lockdown.
    • This, said Kurz, should allow a return to a sense of normality after the lockdown and allow people to celebrate Christmas “as safe as possible.”
    • Health Minister Rudolf Anschober (Greens) pointed out that taking a test will not be mandatory, but it will be free.
    • The government said that it will share further details on the planned test campaign at the end of this week.
    • Observers expect exposed population groups such as teachers to get early access to testing, then others.
    • Testing with rapid antigen tests is in principle cheap and fast. The logistics of testing hundreds thousands or millions of people in a short time are the bigger challenge.
    • For Austria, health economist Thomas Czypionka of the Institute for Higher Studies (IHS) advises regular mass testing to ensure high effectiveness.
    • Another option would also be to send rapid antigen tests per post and encourage the population with clear communication to use the tests and get a second one, if the first one should be positive.
    • Neighboring Slovakia tested on two weekends over 2/3 of its population of 5.5 million people; the testing drive found 50,000 formerly undetected cases of SARS-CoV-2. Since then, new infections have been on a steep downward trend.

  • New results from a large clinical trial of Pfizer and BioNTech’s experimental coronavirus vaccine showed the shot to be 95% effective in preventing COVID-19.
    • The U.S. drugmaker and partner BioNTech SE said their vaccine protected people of all ages and ethnicities, with no significant safety problems so far.
    • In a trial that includes almost 44,000 participants, 162 participants who received a placebo got sick with COVID-19, compared to only 8 of those who were vaccinated, Pfizer and BioNTech said Wednesday.
    • 10 severe cases of COVID-19 emerged among the entire group of 44,000 volunteers, of which 9 were in the placebo group.
    • The vaccine’s efficacy in people older than 65 was more than 94%, the companies said.
    • Most people who received the shot tolerated it well. Severe fatigue was seen in 3.7% of volunteers after the second dose in the two-shot regimen, but that was the only severe side effect that occurred in more than 2% of people, according to the analysis.
    • The two companies now plan to file for an emergency use authorization for their vaccine as soon as next week.
    • Pfizer and BioNTech said they can deliver up to 50 million doses of the vaccine still this year (two shots are needed to fully immunize a person). Next year, up to 1.3 billion doses should be produced and delivered.
  • If the results of the clinical study hold – 95% effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2 – the newly developed coronavirus vaccine could be among the most effective vaccines humankind has ever invented.
    • For comparison, one dose of the existing MMR vaccine is 93% effective against measles, 78% effective against mumps, and 97% effective against rubella.
    • The effectiveness of the annual flu vaccine is estimated to be 20-50% at max.
  • Slovakia’s strategy of mass testing its population for the coronavirus seems to be paying off.
    • Cases have been falling rapidly in recent weeks, with the downward trend firmly intact.
  • New studies indicate that immunity from the coronavirus might last years, maybe even decades.
    • That means most people who have been infected (more than 90% or so) will be protected from reinfections for a very long time. And vaccines — which generally provide stronger, longer-lasting protection — may do even better.
    • It also means that we probably will not need to vaccinate people every year, as we had feared, giving us a chance to contain this pandemic once vaccines are distributed.
    • The vast majority of people in the new study have robust levels of B cells (which can make antibodies as needed), as well as the types of T cells needed to fight the virus, and they show extremely slow rates of decline — consistent with many years of protection.
  • Specialized Austrian pharmacies can now offer rapid antigen tests for SARS-CoV-2 in a controlled setting.
    • The new rapid antigen tests often have a very high accuracy. Nevertheless, the right handling of the test is crucial.
    • If a person tests positive, this result needs to be confirmed with a second PCR test.
    • Pharmacists will help, assist and advise.
    • The rapid antigen tests in pharmacies have to be paid out of pocket. Prices range from €25 to €75.
  • Austrian ministries reported 7,091 new infections since yesterday, as of 09:30 today.
    • The number of known active cases has increased by +1,299 (+1.7%) to 76,839.
    • Austria’s 7-day-incidence receded slightly to 522 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants.
    • In the last 24 hours, 109 people died from or with the virus. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 2,054 people in the country have died due to COVID-19.
    • A total of 4,592 patients with COVID-19 have been hospitalized, an increase of +67 (+1.5%) since the day before.
    • Of those, 682 are in intensive care, an increase of +24 (+3.6%) since yesterday.
    • The number of tests has increased to a record 33,128.

November 17, 2020

  • According to the Education Ministry, on average 15 percent of children attended school on the first day of remote learning. Most of the students were in elementary school, but even more kids attended kindergartens.
    • All schools have been instructed to switch to distance learning, but the facilities remain open for supervision and pedagogical support.
  • Austrian ministries reported 5,984 new infections in the last 24 hours, as of 09:30 today.
    • This is slightly more than last Tuesday, where the number of new cases was 5,704.
    • The 7-day-incidence fell to 527.
    • Here’s the distribution of new cases among federal states:
      • Burgenland: 178
      • Carinthia: 737
      • Lower Austria: 751
      • Upper Austria: 1.230
      • Salzburg: 826
      • Styria: 545
      • Tyrol: 722
      • Vorarlberg: 295
      • Vienna: 700
    • A total of 4,525 COVID-19 patients are currently being treated in Austrian hospitals, an increase of +182 since yesterday.
    • Of those, 658 are getting intensive care, an increase of +46.
    • Since yesterday, 58 people in Austria have died from or with COVID-19, bringing the total to 1,945.
  • Today Health Minister Rudolf Anschober (Greens) indicated that the number of cases has reached the ceiling. However, he also said that there is “stabilization at a dramatically high level.” It is a race against time that the capacity limits in intensive care units are not exceeded, Anschober said.
    • Anschober also urged patients not to postpone their check-ups at health facilities in the interest of their own health.
  • Physiologists said that treatment is possible during the second lockdown. Unlike in the spring, clinics are equipped with a sufficient amount of PPE equipment.
  • Due to the corona virus pandemic, visits to the four hospitals of KRAGES (Kittsee, Oberpullendorf, Oberwart and Güssing) are now forbidden. This measure will be in effect until Dec. 6.
    • There are a few exceptions to this order, for which appointments must be made by telephone. Exceptions include:
      • Visits and accompaniment of minors (maximum two persons per patient)
      • Accompaniment of patients in need of support (maximum two persons)
      • Visits related to births (maximum one person)
      • Visits in palliative situations and during farewells
      • Patients who have been hospitalized for more than seven days may also be visited

  • Specialized pharmacies will soon offer antigen quick tests for asymptomatic patients. Prerequisites for this are training measures for correct implementation, hygiene measures and the reporting of positive results to the district administrative authority.
  • Austria’s second “hard” lockdown has begun as of midnight today, on Tuesday, November 17, 2020.
    • The government expressly asked all Austrians and people living here country to “reduce their social contacts as much as possible” over the next weeks, to contain the virus.
    • We compiled a short and concise list of the rules of this second lockdown for you.

  • SPÖ leader Pamela Rendi-Wagner presented a five-point plan for controlling the corona situation.
    • In the paper presented to the APA, she called for an additional 1,000 people to be involved in contact tracing.
    • There should be one test per week for risk groups or for people who work with them. Mass testing would make sense above all if it is repeated regularly, said Rendi-Wagner.
    • Vaccination centers need to be build throughout Austria, which includes creating a transport and storage units fort he vaccine and developing an IT system to register and process the vaccination.
    • The intensive care units should be upgraded. Austria must be in a position to increase intensive care capacities in the worst-case scenario throughout the country.
    • Mobile vaccination teams must be organized for nursing homes.
    • Safety concepts for safe teaching, winter tourism and the like must also be developed.
    • The quarantine must be strictly administered and there should be a test on the fifth day for entries from high-risk countries.
    • Finally, Rendi-Wagner believes that clear rules are needed after the lockdown: “The mask must not be allowed to fall again,” she said.

  • A large medical laboratory wants to offer fast PCR test stations in Salzburg ski resorts. The first one is planned in Saalbach-Hinterglemm (Pinzgau).
    • Other large skiing areas have also already expressed interest.
  •  In the first six months of this year, around ten percent of deaths in Sweden were attributable to COVID-19. This makes the virus the third most common cause of death in the country.
    •  In the first half of 2020, around 51,500 people in Sweden had died. 14,000 of them from cardiovascular disease, 11,600 from tumors, and 5,500 from Covid-19.

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced a long-term coronavirus concept for next week. She had wanted to make a decision yesterday, but she did not have backing among state leaders
    • Merkel appealed to the population to limit their contacts to a minimum. For example, private celebrations should be avoided altogether and contacts should be limited to a fixed household.
    • People over 65 years of age and people with pre-existing conditions will be able to obtain a total of 15 FFP2 masks for a small personal contribution.
  • The regions in Italy are putting pressure on the government and demanding a review of the coronavirus traffic light system, which divides Italy into red, orange and yellow risk zones. 
    • The number of new infections in Italy has fallen today. New infections decreased from 33,979 to 27,354 in 24 hours. There were 504 deaths, 42 fewer than the day before.
  • Luxembourg is preparing to enter a new lockdown.
    • At the end of October, the government implemented a night-time curfew from 23:00 to 06:00 and increasingly ordered people to wear masks.
    • 9,286 people are currently infected with the virus in the country.

November 16, 2020

  • Austrian ministries have reported 4,657 new cases as of 09:30 today.
    • That is significantly less than both yesterday (5,655) and on Monday a week ago (6,006).
    • The number of tests has now consistently been very high, between 25,000 and 30,000 every day.
    • The new infections are split among Austria’s federal state in the following way:
      • Burgenland: 223
      • Carinthia: 182
      • Lower Austria: 1.038
      • Upper Austria: 917
      • Salzburg: 468
      • Styria: 417
      • Tyrol: 578
      • Vorarlberg: 329
      • Vienna: 505
    • A total of 4,300 COVID-19 patients are currently being treated in Austrian hospitals, an increase of +118 (+2.8%) since yesterday.
    • Of those, 612 are getting intensive care, +13 more than yesterday (+2.2%).
    • From yesterday to today, 58 people have died with or from the virus, bringing the total toll of the disease in Austria since the beginning of the pandemic to 1,887.
  • The US company Moderna has said its vaccine candidate has shown to be 94.5% effective, based on interim results of their currently ongoing phase 3 trial.
    • Recently, the companies Pfizer/Biontech have also presented first interim results of their vaccine trial, indicating efficacy “over 90%.”
    • Both Moderna and Biontech work with the novel mRNA technology. That both vaccines now proved to be successful in first results is very encouraging for putting an end to the pandemic in the medium to long term.
    • There are still several more hurdles before final, peer-reviewed results and approval of the vaccines. Moreover, roll-out will also take a longer period of time.
    • Still, as things stand, these news are very encouraging and positive when it comes to fighting the virus.
  • Yesterday, Sunday, 5,655 new coronavirus infections were reported in Austria.
    • That’s lower than the previous days as well as the Sunday before.
    • For the first time in several weeks, the number of known active cases in the country has decreased slightly, by -655 (-0.9%) to a total of 76,453.
    • The 7-day-incidence dipped slightly to 453 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants. The value is currently particularly high in Vorarlberg (803) and Upper Austria (736) and rising fast in heretofore rather spared Carinthia (618).
    • Vienna has the second-lowest 7-day-incidence of all federal states at the moment, with 442.
    • Since all other numbers react with a 1-2 weeks time-lag, they are still on a steep rise, however.
    • Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 rose by +152 (+3.8%) to a total of 4,178. Of those, 599 patients are getting intensive care, an increase of +15 (+2.6%).
    • Yesterday, 83 deaths due to or with the virus were reported, an all-time high. That’s an increase of +4.8%, bringing the total of COVID-19 deaths in Austria since the beginning of the pandemic to 1,829.
  • The second lockdown starting tomorrow will also bring changes to schools and kindergartens.
    • While in-person instructions will be halted for two weeks, government officials are at pains to point out that childcare options and “learning stations” will still be available for anyone who needs it.
    • At the same time, experts have also underlined that the goal of the measure is to reduce contacts as much as possible, hence leaving children at home would be beneficial for that.
    • In Vienna, in some schools, up to half of all children might still come during the weeks of the lockdown, preliminary surveys have shown.
    • That contrasts with only about 5-10% of children who came to school during the first lockdown in spring.
    • The Viennese Education Council also showed themselves confident that the contact with children staying at home will work better this time around – checking in at least once a week with children and families is planned.
  • A new study conducted in Ireland has shown that about half of patients who have had a symptomatic case of COVID-19 continue to experience fatigue over several weeks after they have recovered from the acute phase of the illness.
  • While the second wave has had Europe tightly in its grip over recent weeks, new numbers also show tentative improvements.
    • The curve is being flattened in Belgium, Czechia, and France, three of the hardest-hit countries in this second wave.
    • It also shows signs of leveling off in Spain, Italy, Germany and Switzerland and of rising more slowly in the United Kingdom.
    • Even Austrian numbers – briefly among the highest per capita in Europe and the entire world – now begin to show a downward trend. We will see if it can be sustained.
    • For the European Union, numbers have peaked on November 8 with 485 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants in a 7-day-period. Since then, they decreased slightly every day to currently 418 (Nov. 15).
    • Meanwhile, and in an agonizingly precise repeat of the situation in spring, the numbers in the United States have been steadily on the rise, with a lag of several weeks after Europe.
    • The US 7-day-incidence rate per 100,000 people now stands at 460 (Nov. 16) having doubled since October 30.
November 16, 2020 (c) The World in Data

November 15, 2020

  • Today during the ORF “Pressestunde,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced that Austria will conduct mass testing, similar to the Slovakian government, “at the time of reopening” in December. The government will release more information towards the end of next week.
    • Teachers will be the first to get tested.
    • According to Kurz, testing the entire population will save Christmas and guarantee reopening schools safely.
    • In the next few weeks, the federal government plans to order millions of antigen tests.
    • He also said that the federal states “must get better” at contract tracing.
  • 5, 665 new infections were reported in Austria within the last 24 hours.
    • With 1,106 new cases, Vienna recorded the most infects, followed by 1,102 in Lower Austria, 1,041 in Upper Austria, 848 in Tyrol, 561 in Styria, 333 in Carinthia, 245 in Salzburg, 272 in Vorarlberg, and 157 in Burgenland.
  • In a press briefing, the Health Ministry clarified that people can meet multiple (but a small number) of family members and personal contacts during the second “hard” lockdown that will begin on Tuesday.
    • Yesterday, the federal government said that people were only allowed to spend time with people from their household or one, single family member or close contact.
  • Defense Minister Klaudia Tanner will send more soldiers to aid federal contact tracing efforts. In the coming week, 200 men join the team, which contains 1,035 soldiers in total. The City of Vienna has to date refused help from the Bundesheer.
  • The NEOS have sent a letter to Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and the federal government offering their support for the second “hard” lockdown under the condition that schools remain open for instruction.
    • However, NEOS head Beate Meinl-Reisinger criticized that the lockdown entails massive restrictions to our basic rights.

November 14, 2020

Government Press Conference

  • From Tuesday, November 17, to Sunday, December 6, a second lockdown like in March will take effect.
    1. Shops, stores and services will have to close, just like in spring (except .
    2. Schools will switch to distance learning. Kindergartens and elementary schools will offer childcare for families that absolutely need it.
    3. Home office should be the norm wherever possible.
    4. People should not leave their house during the day, with the exceptions of:
      • Going to work.
      • Helping others.
      • Getting essentials (food etc.).
      • Or walk in nature for mental and physical health.
  • The press conference starts with a statement by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP).
    • Kurz says the current situation is “grave” and that the government has evaluated the effects of the partial lockdown, in place since November 3.
    • The chancellor says the government’s expected the numbers to stay high for a week. But since they are still rising, two weeks later, stricter measures are urgently needed.
    • In some federal states, such as Carinthia, Vorarlberg or Upper Austria, the numbers rise particularly fast.
    • Austria’s 7-day-incidence of more than 550 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants is more than ten times higher than the advised “controllable” value of 50.
    • More than 77% of new infections cannot be traced back to their source anymore in Austria.

  • Kurz asks all Austrians to reduce their social contacts to the absolute minimum in the next weeks and only meet people they live in the same household with.
    • The chancellor mentioned the examples of other successful countries. Israel lowered new infections from 9,000 a day to 2,000 a day in only a few weeks, Kurz said.
    • Kurz assured parents that childcare will be available for all parents who absolutely need it.
    • The chancellor also promised fast and unbureaucratic support measures for companies and employees (Kurzarbeit or short-time work).
    • Kurz said the government’s goal is to reopen shops, stores and schools for children up to 14 years old on Monday, December 17.
  • Vice-Chancellor Werner Kogler (Greens) addresses all Austrians and all people who live in this country.
    • “Unfortunately, the measures we’ve taken so far have not successfully borne fruit,” Kogler said.
    • The vice-chancellor asked everyone to comply with the measures to secure our health system and to “save lives.”
    • “The situation in our hospitals is already worrisome,” Kogler said. This endangers all of us, also those who might not get COVID-19.
    • “Please stay home,” said the vice-chancellor. The law can only go so far – cooperation of all people is necessary to make the new measures effective.
    • Kogler said that the offer of the kindergartens, elementary school and lower secondary schools will keep offering childcare and reduced teaching to children of parents who cannot homeschool them due to their work or home office work.
    • Kogler vowed to support businesses and jobs also in this second lockdown.
    • The vice-chancellor encourage people to go out and stay healthy, but not to meet other people while doing so.
    • Kogler also saw reason for some confidence: He hopes that it will be possible for people to spend Christmas together.
  • Health Minister Rudolf Anschober (Greens) spoke then about the pandemic and the situation of our healthcare system.
    • Anschober said that the pandemic is affecting countries around the globe, with severe repercussions.
    • The health minister said that Austria came very well through the first lockdown, with a comparably lower number of cases and deaths than in many other European countries.
    • But Anschober also said how the second wave is “more dynamic” and more dangerous than the previous one. He mentioned the experience of neighboring Czechia, that saw cases rising earlier and peak around 18,000 new infections a day in October.
    • The health minister also mentioned Switzerland and Italy that are currently battling with the second wave of the coronavirus.
    • “Since October 23, the number of new cases has been rising at an explosive pace,” Anschober said.
    • The health minister said that we saw 50-75% reduction of mobility in spring. The same effect was not reached in the partial lockdown of the last couple of weeks, resulting in a high number of new infections.
    • Anschober shared expert forecasts that we will see around 7,000 new infections every day next week as well as a higher number of hospitalized and ICU patients as well as deaths due to COVID-19.
    • If the current trends continue, the capacities of some hospitals will be reached in a couple of days; the capacity of the entire health system at the end of the November.
    • “This is the reasons,” said Anschober, “why we have to act now.”
    • Anschober said we have to show discipline “for approximately three weeks” to contain the coronavirus and return to a more-or-less normal life in the weeks thereafter.
    • “The next weeks decide the fate of all of us,” Anschober said.
  • Interior Minister Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) spoke about the people in essential services that keep our country running even during a lockdown.
    • The interior minister called for “solidarity” among all people in the country.
    • Nehammer said the coronavirus is an “imposition” and that “it annoys all of us” – but that now, once more, solidarity of everyone is needed.
  • No questions can be asked, which we will cover here briefly:
    • A reporter said that Austria currently has the highest number of new infections per capita (excluding micro-states) and asked whether religious services will still take place.
      • Chancellor Kurz sees this statistics as an argument for the hard lockdown and strict adherence to measures now. Once again, he mentioned Israel as a positive example of flattening the second wave. Religious representatives have agreed to discontinue religious services for the time being.
      • Vice-Chancellor Kogler admitted that Austria’s authorities have to get better with faster testing, better contact tracing and better coordination.
    • Another reported asked about the kindergartens and whether communication after the first successful lockdown may have been too lax.
      • Chancellor Kurz said kindergartens will stay open for essential childcare, just like elementary schools and lower secondary schools.
      • Kurz also said the measures in spring were successful and we’ve had five more months after that which were relatively normal in times of a pandemic. The chancellor said that Austria as a small, open and landlocked country did not have the option to go the same way such as islands like New Zealand or Australia, to completely eradicate the virus.
      • The goal, Kurz said, is to move as quickly as possible to vaccinate the population and to keep numbers down after this second lockdown.
    • A third reporter asked about the 1-person rule and the length of this second lockdown.
      • Kurz said, in general, people should only be with those they live in the same household with. People living alone can choose one other person to meet during this person to combat loneliness.
      • If the people will comply with these new measures, Kurz showed himself confident that the second lockdown will be rather short (2-3 weeks).
  • We are currently waiting for the government press conference to start at 16:30.
    • More than 7,000 new coronavirus infections have been reported today – less than in recent days, but still very high.
    • The 7-day-incidence of new cases in Austria stands at 543 per 100,000 inhabitants.
    • A total of 3,922 patients with COVID-19 are currently being treated in Austrian hospitals, 567 of those are getting intensive care.
    • Experts expect the number of patients needing ICU care to reach 700 next week – that would be a third of Austria’s total approximately 2,000 intensive care places.
  • The Austrian government is expected to announce a second severe lockdown akin to the one in March at a press conference today at 16:30.
    • We will live-blog the press conference and the new measures as they come in.
    • For a quite extensive list of likely measures that will probably be announced today, see below.
    • The numbers suggest strongly that the situation cannot be controlled anymore except with drastic measures.

Other News

  • New cases numbers show Austria with currently the highest number of new infections per capita worldwide (excluding micro-states like Andorra, Luxembourg etc.).
  • Deaths due to COVID-19 have also been sharply one the rise in recent weeks.
  • Nevertheless, the case fatality rate is with 0.8 in Austria still among the lowest worldwide (e.g. Italy 4.0, France 2.3, Germany 1.6, Switzerland 1.2, Slovakia 0.6).
    • Daily new confirmed deaths due to COVID-19 per million are also still significantly lower than in many other countries (in the graphic below, Austria is on par with the Netherlands and Slovakia).
    • Observers note that this still comparably better performance could be down to three things:
      1. Ample hospital and intensive capacities and top-notch healthcare – until now.
      2. A better testing and hygiene strategy, shielding vulnerable population groups somewhat from the virus.
      3. And the lag between case numbers and deaths.
    • However, all three factors could and will come under severe stress if the case count keeps rising as it currently does.

November 12, 2020 (c) World in Data
  • A press conference is scheduled for 16:30 today, in which the federal government is expected announce a lockdown, similar to the one in spring.
    • The lockdown is reportedly supposed to begin on Tuesday at midnight and will last until midnight on Dec. 6.
    • People will only be permitted to meet their partner or an “individual close” contact.
    • Shops are expected to close, with the exception of grocery stores, drug stores, pharmacies, post offices, and banks.
    • Personal caregivers, such as hairdressers, will be forced to shut, too.
    • According to a statement issued by APA, starting on Tuesday, the nightly curfew will be extended to daytime. If people plan to leave their homes, they must have a specific reason for doing so, such as caring for family, completing essential tasks, doctor visits, taking care of animals, and religious reasons.
    • Work-related tasks and trainings can still be completed outside if necessary. Otherwise, home office is recommended.
    • People may leave their homes to attend court hearings, vote, or seek protection.
    • Physical activity is still permitted outside, but sports facilities, such as ice skating rinks or track and field facilities, will be closed. Professional athletes can continue their sport even if they have tested positive for the virus and are no longer contagious.
    • Only one visitor per patient per week will be allowed in hospitals. This only applies to patients that have been at the facility for more than seven days. Pregnant women can be accompanied by one person during appointments and birth. Children who are under age and disabled people can be accompanied by two people.
    • Hospital employees will be required to get tested once a week. If they test positive, they can still work if they have not shown symptoms for 48 hours or their CT value is under 30.
      • If a limited amount of tests are available, health workers are required to wear a high-quality mask when they are in contact with patients.
      • The same rules apply to nursing homes.
    • It seems that schools will also shut until Dec. 6. This is a highly debated issue.

  • If schools shut down, parents or legal guardians may apply for special care time from Nov. 1 up to four weeks.
    • This also applies to essential workers, but “an employee is required to do everything to ensure that the agreed work is completed,” said the Labor Ministry.
  • Hours before the new lockdown announcement, the first queues are forming in front of stores.
  • Slovakia has further restricted its entry requirements. Starting Monday, all people traveling to the country must present a negative PCR test that is no older than 72 hours. Only 10 states are exempt from this order.

November 13, 2020

  • A total of 9,586 new coronavirus infections was reported today in Austria, a new record.
    • The positivity rate – the share of tests coming back positive – reached a stunning 29.65%.
    • Everything above 5% suggests that a high number of infections is being missed.
  • The corona traffic light commission has decided that the entire country remains red.
    • From the cases that were reported during the calendar week 45 (between Nov. 2 and 8), the source of infection could only be identified 23 percent of the time. This is less than a fourth of the infections.
    • This past week, the seven-day incidence was on average 527.9 per 100,000 residents. The week before the incidence was only 378.0.
    • 46,993 cases were reported in total between Nov. 5 and 11. In comparison, only 33, 642 new infections were from Oct. 18 to Nov. 3.
    • Numerous districts have a seven-day incidence of over 1,000, most of which are located in Upper Austria.
    • Between Nov. 2 and 8, only 12 percent of the cases were asymptomatic.
    • The number of intensive care beds increased by 27.4 percent throughout the entire country. With an increase of 74.5 percent, the most dramatic rise was recorded in Vorarlberg.
    • People between ages 50 and 64 were the most affected.
  • The rapid rise in cases has sparked new rumors about further restrictions. Multiple publications reported about a “complete lockdown” or a “hard shutdown” coming our way.
    • As reported by Austrian daily Die Presse, the lockdown might start on Monday or Tuesday.
    • The Austrian daily Kurier reported that a “hard lockdown” may be imposed from Tuesday, Nov. 17, until Tuesday, Dec. 8.
    • Yesterday the chancellor and the health minister declined to comment. An announcement is expected in tomorrow afternoon’s press conference.
    • Rumors include that a large portion of the shops could be closed, a new curfew could be introduced, and new restrictions could be set in public places and public transportation.
      • Yesterday Health Minister Anschober expressed worries about large masses in shopping malls.
    • The corona traffic light commission recommended that the government should introduce additional measures “as soon as possible” to prevent the health system from collapsing.
    • The commission stressed that students under the age of 14 should continue in-person instruction in schools. They pressed for the introduction of a mask requirement, antigen fast tests, staggering the school opening times, the use of large room, and proposed physical education should only take place outside.
    • However, reports by Die Presse suggested that schools will also be closed for two to three weeks starting on Monday or Tuesday of next week. After that, the country should reportedly be started up again in time for Christmas. Childcare facilities will remain open.
  • There has been a dramatic increase in deaths since mid-October. In the week of the Oct. 19, the ministry recorded 1,762 deaths and the following week the number of deaths totaled to 1,872. This is 25 percent more than the average in the past five years.
  • More and more hospitals in all federal states are postponing non-urgent surgeries to make room for corona patients. Emergencies are still treated.
  • Since the start of the second lockdown, the chronically ill are picking up less of their prescription medication. This is a trend that pharmacies already observed during the first round of lockdown.
  • The Viennese State Opera recorded 17 positive cases. Multiple dancers are infected.
  • A study conducted in Austrian elementary and middle schools between Sept. 28 and Oct. 22 found that 40 out of 10,000 students tested positive for the coronavirus. Gurgle tests were used.
    • A significantly higher portion of positive cases were discovered in socially disadvantaged schools. 0.81 percent tested positive in highly or very disadvantaged schools, while only 0.23 percent of students were infected in schools that are moderately disadvantaged.
  • Starting today, employers in Lower Austria can take a fast corona test. At two testing streets, firms with under 100 employees can get tested for the virus. Alliteratively, teams can come to the workplace directly. The results are available within 15 minutes.
    • The state expects to invest 5 million Euro for this initiative.
    • This started as a pilot project in just one district at the beginning of October and has now been expanded to the entire state.
  • Lower Austrian hospitals are still conducting 61% of elective surgeries.
  • Styria warns that the rising number of corona cases may lead to a shortage in PCR-tests. Reactors and other components needed to analyze the tests are becoming more and more scarce worldwide.
  • As of yesterday, two “checkboxes,” are up and running in Vienna, one on the Mildeplatz in Ottakring and the other in the Ludwig-von-Höhnel-Gasse 2 in Favoriten. On the first day, there was at least one positive corona case.
  • 203,00 people have applied for the the federal government’s €700 million Coronavirus-Härtefallfonds Hilfen (corona aid package) since its introduction. Between Sept. 16 and Oct. 15, the government on average provided 1,200 Euro in aid.
  • 23,542 positive cases were reported in Germany.

November 12, 2020

  • Austria currently has the fourth-highest 7-day-incidence of new coronavirus cases among all EU countries plus Switzerland, the US and the UK.
    • According to the data aggregator “Our World in Data,” Austria’s 7-day-incidence of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants reached 737 on November 12, 2020.
    • Among this peer group of Western countries, this is only surpassed by Switzerland (839), Czechia (801) and Luxembourg (768).
    • However, while the curve for all three countries has been going down sharply in recent days – after even higher spikes before – Austria’s curve is the only one with a still-intact upward trend.
  • Philip Wohlgemuth, chairman of the Tiroler ÖGB, warned that the staff in Tyrol’s hospitals is at its limit.
    • “If the CoV numbers should continue to rise, one could not maintain the system on this level any longer” the directorate of the Tyrolean hospital stated, regarding the enormous load for the maintenance personnel.
  • Also the Upper Austrian nursing staff representatives started a call for help today and demanded to help the employees.
    • Their list of demands ranges from parking spaces and catering to fixed specifications for protective equipment, auxiliary personnel and faster tests.
  • More than 9,100 new infections were reported this morning in Austria, an all-time record.
    • Health Minister Rudolf Anschober (Greens) said that a part of the spike is due to problems with the reporting system in some federal states which have now been resolved.
    • The AGES reporting system was set up originally for salmonella, with a maximum of 7,000 new cases per day, media reported, leading the current issues.
    • The high number puts intense pressure on authorities. The health minister has not ruled out closing schools.
    • Meanwhile, Austria’s 7-day incidence of new infections has risen to 562 per 100,000 inhabitants, for the first time overtaking that of Switzerland (552) and over three times more than Germany (156) – see second tweet and graph below.
  • Health Minister Rudolf Anschober (Greens) has described the latest pictures of large crowds of people in some shopping centers today as “alarming.”
    • “We currently have a very high level of virological activity in Austria and therefore a high risk. We must therefore do everything possible to massively reduce contacts and reduce the risk. The pictures from last weekend must not be repeated this weekend,” Anschober warned today.
    • “I appeal to the operators of shopping centers to protect the health of their customers and make appropriate preparations. The operators must ensure that the prescribed maximum number of customers is complied with, that crowds are prevented from gathering and that customer flows are managed,” said the health minister.
    • Anschober appealed to the customers to “strictly adhere to the applicable rules, such as keeping the minimum distance and wearing a mouth and nose protection. I strongly recommend not to consume food and beverages directly in the shopping center,” he advised in a press release.
  • COVID-statistics  models are becoming increasingly difficult to create, due to “drastically inaccurate data,” as researchers criticize.
    • “Since there was a sudden sharp increase in the number of positive tests on October 20, we are increasingly  seeing big updates,” says complexity researcher Stefan Thurner.
    • With his Complexity Science Hub Vienna (CSH), Thurner and his team are part of the Covid Prognosis Consortium of the Ministry of Health.
    • A policy brief published today is quoted: “With the current inadequate data situation at federal state level, one risks losing the tools for modeling. This means that we are exposed to the infection process virtually blindly and may even lose the possibility of making short-term forecasts  for decision-making in various state institutions.”
    • Both model calculators, Stefan Thurner and Nikolas Popper see that although the daily figures are increasing, growth is slowing down somewhat.
    • The peak has not yet been reached, says Stefan Thurner: “When the peak will be reached is very difficult to predict based on the current data situation.”
  • Vienna plans to set up 30 “checkboxes” that offer free rapid antigen tests for the population.
    • In case of flu-like symptoms such as rhinitis, fever, cough or sore throat, Viennese can go to one of currently two checkboxes in Vienna and get a rapid antigen test for the coronavirus – or treatment for another illness, if need be.
    • A total of 30 checkbox-locations throughout Vienna are planned until the end of November.
    • The checkboxes located at Ludwig von Höhnelgasse 2, Wien 1100 and Mildeplatz opposite to Nr. 8 in Wien 1160 are open daily from 07:00 to 19:00. A registration is necessary. Appointments are planned a maximum of 3 days in advance ,with which waiting times for patients should be avoided.
    • All patients will be tested for a possible COVID-19 disease with a free-of-charge, rapid antigen test before treatment. If it is negative, they can be treated by a doctor directly in the container ordination. If the test is positive, the necessary measures will be initiated immediately.
    • If you have a positive test result, the doctor will take a 2nd smear to confirm the test result of the antigen test. You will also receive a letter of discharge. The results of the 2nd smear will be sent to you by mail or electronically.
  • Yesterday, the main committee of Austria’s National Council approved an extension for ten days of the nighttime curfew in force since November 3.
    • The agreement in the main committee was necessary because, according to the legal requirements, the initial restrictions can only be adopted for ten days at a time. All other measures of the lockdown are already valid for four weeks, until the end of November.
    • According to the nighttime curfew, leaving one’s “own private living area” is generally prohibited between 20:00 and 06:00. However, here are the five exceptions listed.
      It is permitted to leave the house:
      • For professional purposes
      • To cover the basic needs of daily life
      • For the care and nursing of those in need
      • The prevention of danger to life, limb and property
      • The purpose of “physical and mental recreation”
  • Employees who have to look after underage children at home because the school or kindergarten has closed will in future have a legal claim for up to four weeks of special care time.
    • The Social Affairs Committee of the National Council yesterday approved an amendment to the Employment Contract Law Amendment Act with a broad majority.
    • If necessary, it will also be possible to stay away from work with full pay if children are in quarantine. In return, the companies will be reimbursed for the entire wage costs – and not just half of the wage costs as has been the case up until now.
    • According to the draft bill, the new regulation will apply until the end of the 2020/21 school year.
    • Only the NEOS voted against the amendment. According to the party, the draft will prepare the ground for school closures, the parliamentary correspondence reported this evening.
    • Both Social Minister Rudolf Anschober (Greens) and Labor Minister Christine Aschbacher (ÖVP) vehemently denied a connection between the amendment and planned school closures.
    • The Social Committee also decided to extend special CoV regulations for people in partial retirement and for self-employed persons who have stopped working.
  • After about 80% of Ischgl’s population was tested for antibodies in April, the residents of Ischgl will be tested again now for their immune response.
    • In April, 42.4% of the tested population had antibodies. Now the question arises how high this percentage is after six months. This time, not only will antibodies be analyzed, but also the cellular immune defense by T cells in some test persons.
    • The baseline study from April showed that “an astonishing percentage had antibodies and there were hardly any new infections in parallel,” said von Laer.
    • For this new study, all residents of Ischgl over the age of 18 were invited. 900 participants had been recruited, and the first time around 1,400 people were tested.
    • The study will “make a decisive contribution to the question of how long an immunity lasts,” said von Laer.
    • 27% of the children tested positive in spring and 45% of the adults. Around 42% of the study participants in total had antibodies.
    • The proportion of people who tested positive for antibodies was thus about six times higher than the number of people who had previously tested positive by PCR test, according to the survey.
  • In view of a sharp increase in new coronavirus infections, Greece has imposed a night-time curfew.
    • From Friday onwards, Greeks will no longer be allowed to leave their homes between 21:00 and 05:00, according to Nikos Hardalias , the State Secretary for Civil Protection.
    • Excluded from the rule are people who have to leave the house for professional or health reasons. The Greek authorities registered 2,752 new infections and 43 deaths related to the coronavirus yesterday – although strict curfews are also in place during the day.
    • Citizens are only allowed to leave their homes if they have requested this via their cell phone and received permission via SMS.
  • German health authorities have reported 21,866 new coronavirus infections within the last 24 hours, said the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). This is almost 3,400 cases more than yesterday, according to the RKI’s data from this morning.
    • Compared to last Thursday (19,990), the figure is slightly higher. The RKI counts a total of 727,553 confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infections in Germany since the beginning of the pandemic.
    • 11,982 people have died and around 467,800 people have recovered.
  • Italy recorded more than one million coronavirus infections until yesterday. 
    • The  Italian Ministry of Health announced 32,961 new infections and 623 further deaths. This means that a total of 42,953 people in Italy have died from the virus, the second highest number in Europe after the United Kingdom.
  • The Chamber of Commerce demands a longer period of time to repay deferred taxes and duties.
    • According to the current situation, companies must repay such aid in the context of the coronavirus pandemic by January 15.
    • WKÖ President Harald Mahrer and Secretary General Karl-Heinz Kopf want to see this deadline extended by six to nine months.
    • In addition the chamber representatives want installment payments for their members. Negotiations have begun, according to the Chamber of Commerce.
    • As one of the immediate measures after the outbreak of the pandemic, companies were granted deferments of taxes and contributions, for example for social security.
    • So far €6.5 billion in tax deferrals have been accumulated. If all deferred amounts were reclaimed in mid-January, the liquidity of companies would be endangered, said Mahrer.
  • In New Zealand, a locally transmitted coronavirus case has been confirmed for the first time since August.
    • Today, the health authorities announced that they are currently investigating where the young woman could have contracted the virus.
    • New Zealand remains in a “very strong” position to control the virus, said the new Minister for Coronavirus Pandemic Control, Chris Hipkins. “In the rest of the world, Covid-19 continues to rage and will remain a heightened threat for some time to come.”
    • The Pacific state declared the virus defeated for the second time in October.
    • Inhabitants there have returned to a large degree of normality and do not even need to wear masks.
    • In total, the country has reported about 1,600 infections so far, 25 people have died in connection with the virus
  • At the White House in Washington, another employee tested positive for the coronavirus. The New York Times and CNN reported yesterday that the virus was detected in political director Brian Jack over the weekend.
    • According to the The New York Times, the novel coronavirus was also detected in another presidential advisor. The newspaper did not mention a name, and it remained unclear whether this advisor was at the White House on election night.
    • Other close associates of President Trump had tested positive also, including Cabinet Chief Mark Meadows, Secretary of Construction Ben Carson and David Bossie, head of the legal team that is conducting investigations in several U.S. states against alleged fraud in the presidential election.
    • The president himself and his wife were also infected with the corona virus a few weeks before the election.
    • The USA is the country in the world most severely affected by the pandemic. Almost 240,000 people have died since the pandemic began. More than 10.3 million people have been infected with the virus.

November 11, 2020

  • Austrian ministries reported 7,514 new cases across the country in the last 24 hours, as of 09:30 today.
    • The number of new infections distributed among federal states:
      • Vienna: 1,427
      • Upper Austria: 1,396
      • Tyrol: 1,103
      • Lower Austria: 1,076
      • Carinthia: 886
      • Styria: 869
      • Salzburg: 291
      • Vorarlberg: 272
      • Burgenland: 194
    • The 7-day incidence rose again, to now 496 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants.
    • The number of COVID-19 patients being treated in Austrian hospitals has risen to 3,719; of those, 536 are getting intensive care.
    • Since yesterday, 30 people have died due to or with the virus. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 1,564 people in Austria have died due to COVID-19.
  • Slovakia’s mass coronavirus testing program has found 57,500 new cases.
    • Austria’s neighbor was the first European country to roll out a testing program for almost its entire population, implemented on two weekends with rapid antigen tests.
    • The 5-million people country tested 3.6m people — two-thirds of its population — on October 31 and November 1.
    • Children and certain other segments of the population (e.g. those who already had done a PCR test) were exempted from the testing program.
    • The new 57,500 cases were added to the 77,123 cases Slovakia had found with PCR tests since the beginning of the pandemic; of the latter number, many already recovered again.
    • Nonetheless, the number of newly found cases shows the promise of such an approach to contain the virus faster than with classical PCR testing.
    • Igor Matovic, Slovakia’s prime minister, underlined that positivity rates in hard-hit regions dropped from 1.47% to 0.62% as a marker of how the strategy is working.
    • Matovic claimed: “The results? Above all expectations. After [the second round] we can say that mass testing reduces the number of infectious people from week to week by 55%! Which is amazing.”
    • Experts caution that, while the results certainly look promising, rapid antigen tests still have a certain failure rate and some who test negative will be, in fact, positive.
    • One factor to take into account is also that measures were tightened in the same period, which might have also helped to bring numbers of new infections down.
    • Nevertheless, many experts also see the strategy as a potential bridge to a time when the vaccine will be widely available, particularly for small countries that could roll out such mass testing relatively quickly.
    • Austria sent 30 military doctors and paramedics to Slovakia to help with the test drive – and perhaps also look at how such an operation works in practice.
  • Across Austria, almost half of all available intensive care beds are occupied (47%).
    • The situation is currently quite stable in Lower Austria (35% occupancy rate), Carinthia (35%), Vienna (37%), Styria (41%) and Salzburg (49%).
    • It is more critical in Upper Austria (66%), the Burgenland (67%) and Vorarlberg (70%).
    • The federal state currently most affected is Tyrol, with 85% of intensive care beds occupied and infections still rising at a rapid clip.
  • In recent days, the number of of new coronavirus infections plateaued in Austria on a very high level.
    • Around 6,000 new infections per day in Austria represents up to three times more per capita than Germany, which reported around 20,000 new infections daily but has a population about nine to the ten times bigger.
    • The 7-day incidence fell slightly to still-very-high 460 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants.
    • The Tyrolean infectious disease specialist Günter Weiss warned that it’s “five minutes to midnight” and that he cannot preclude a triage-like situation in Tyrolean hospitals in “one to two weeks.”
    • Upper Austrian doctors also reported an increasingly critical situation. Intensive care capacities at hospitals have already been expanded two times and might soon be needed to expanded once again; while equipment is available, trained staff could become a problem at some point.
  • Health Minister Rudolf Anschober (Greens) showed himself confident when it comes to the vaccine against the coronavirus.
    • “In an ideal scenario, we will start in January and February [2021] to vaccinate up to 600,000 people in Austria,” Anschober said.
  • The Austrian Health and Education Ministry spoke out clearly against shutting elementary schools, kindergartens and lower grades of high schools (Unterstufe).
    • A heated debate has been taking place in recent weeks in Austria about the role of schools in the pandemic and the right response – a new hygiene guideline by the Education Ministry is seen as a sort of “gag order” by many school teachers and principals (Metropole reported).
    • Education Minister Heinz Faßmann (ÖVP) and the speaker of the Austrian Corona-Ampel commission, Clemens Martin Auer, underlined that closing schools would be the “measure of last resort.”
    • Auer said that in-person instructions should continue “for as long as possible.”
    • Faßmann also announced that the new rapid tests should be deployed at schools in the near future, making testing faster and thus reducing the risks. There will also be busses that provide a gargling test which is as accurate as the PCR test.
  • Stores and shops across Austria will close at 19:00 starting from today.
  • A new comparative study from the Netherlands and Germany has shown that the existing flu vaccine might also help protect against COVID-19 to some degree.
    • For the study, 10,600 people were examined, 184 of whom tested positive for Sars-CoV-2 in spring.
    • Of the people who were vaccinated against influenza, 1.33% were infected, compared to 2.23% of those who were not vaccinated.
    • This represents a 39% reduction of the risk, the study says.
    • The authors hypothesize that the flu vaccine may “train” the immune system against respiratory diseases and thus help ward off a coronavirus infection.
    • However, the authors also caution that correlation does imply causation – it could also be that people who are more attentive to their health and hygiene are also likelier to get a flu shot and that the lower infection rate is thus down to their behavior to a large degree.

November 10, 2020

  • The Kepler University Hospital in Linz, Austria’s second-biggest hospital, reports that it is close to capacity.
    • “In the spring we got by with one or two Covid-19 stations. Now we have seven,” sayid Bernd Lamprecht, Chairman of the Pulmonary Medicine Clinic.
    • Two entire intensive care stations are already fully occupied; in a third one, half of all beds are occupied.
    • Doctors report that the hospital is facing “its biggest test since wartime.”
    • The hospital also issued an “absolute visitor ban,” effective immediately, as of November 10.
    • Upper Austria reports a 7-day incidence of 702 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants, the highest number of all federal states and almost double the Austrian average of 461.
    • A visitor ban in Upper Austrian hospitals and nursing homes also goes into effect today. The measure will last for two weeks.
  • While employees are called on to work from home, the Austrian Labor Market Service (AMS) continues to require the unemployed to appear in person to courses.
    • More than 65,000 people are currently attending such courses.
    • Observers and media reports decry that the requirement makes new coronavirus hotspots likely and seems bullheaded in the current stage of the pandemic.
    • The regulation outlawing meetings of more than 10 people in public and ordering the closure of higher schools explicitly excludes AMS courses from the requirements.
    • Critics maintain that the people in this course often belong above average to risk groups and are likely to spread the virus further, if they will be infected.
  • According to the AGES dashboard, there are currently 82,511 active infections in the country.
    • The seven-day incidence is 461.0 per 100,000 residents.
    • 3,228 patients are being treated in Austrian hospitals. 473 of which are in intensive care.
    • In total, 1,418 people have died with or from COVID-19 in Austria since the start of the pandemic.
  • In a press briefing, Labor Minister Christine Aschbacher presented the lasted employment figures.
    • Currently, 132, 984 people are on Kurzarbeit (short-term employment contracts).
      • Up until now, only 15,844 have requested the short-term employment scheme. Firms affected by the newest lockdown can still apply until Nov. 20.
    • 437,421 people are unemployed, of which 370,981 are jobless and 66,440 in training. In total, this is 12,521 more since last week and 79,000 more than the year before.
    • 36,000 people found a job in October.
  • Tomorrow the government will extend the nightly curfew, in effect since Nov. 3, for ten more days.
    • The Health Ministry said they will evaluate the effectiveness of this measure in the next few days.
  • Starting tomorrow, all stores will be ordered to close at 19:00. Gas stations, vending machines, shops at train stations, and airports (shops no larger than 80 square meters) are exempt from this new agreement.
  • As reported by Die Presse, the federal government might announce new restrictions on Friday, November 13.
    • This past weekendm Health Minister Rudolf Anschober (Greens) indicated that if the number of intensive care patients continues to increase, further measures are needed. While the federal government refuses to release details, rumors have been making rounds in the media. Possible restrictions could include:
      • Closing schools and transitioning to distance teaching & learning.
      • Closing all shops, except for grocery stores and pharmacies.
      • Extending the nightly curfew.
      • Increasing the social distance rule to two meters.
      • Further reducing the number of visitors in nursing homes.
      • Introducing restrictions in religious services.
  • An online survey conducted by the GfK found that 54% of Austrians would be ready to get a potential corona vaccine. 37% would do so in the first month that the vaccine is made available for them.
    • Almost half of the participants said the first lockdown in the spring affected their mental state.
  • The European Union reached an agreement with the pharmaceutical companies Biotech and Pfizer for their promising corona vaccine.
  • After first encouraging results of the Pfizer/Biontech vaccine candidate in a Phase III trial, more experts now weigh in.
  • While cases continue to rise across Austria, with Upper Austria a particular hotspot, Vienna is now the federal state with the lowest number of new infections per capita (see tweet below).

  • The Arbeitsmarktservice (Employment Market Service, AMS) has placed over 140 unemployed people across Austria as temporary corona contact tracers.
  • After the federal government forgot to announce restrictions for puppy training schools, the schools must now close. Only individual trainings are allowed.
  • In three nursing homes in Burgenland, 82 people tested positive for the virus.
  • Today PLO general secretary Saeb Erekat died from his COVID-19 infection.
  • Russia reported almost 21,000 new corona cases in the last 24 hours.

November 9, 2020

  • The US company Pfizer and the German biotech company BionTech just published interim results of their vaccine trial.
    • The vaccine developed by the two companies prevented more than 90% of infections in a study with tens of thousands of volunteers around the world – massively above estimates and hopes for the effectiveness of a first vaccine somewhere between 60-70%.
    • The preliminary results will allow the companies to seek an emergency-use authorization.
    • That could mean that vaccination in Europe and the US could start by year-end. The vaccine needs two shots with several weeks in between.
    • The companies have said they should be able to produce 1.3 billion doses – enough to vaccinate 650 million people – by the end of 2021. Only 50 million doses are expected to be available in 2020.
    • “This is the best news I got since January 10,” said virologist Florian Krammer, a native Austrian who does research at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York and helped develop one of the first coronavirus test sets.
  • Another expert view on the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines and what to look out for is a study published by researchers Marc Lipsitch and Natalie E. Dean, published on October 21, 2020.
  • Natalie E. Dean, PhD, and Assistant Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Florida specializing in emerging infectious diseases and vaccine study design, also gave a first insight into how we could interpret these results. Quotes start from here:
    • Vaccine trials are “event-driven.” They continue until enough endpoints have accrued (here, lab-confirmed *symptomatic* infections). Statisticians can take planned “early looks” at the data, and so allow us to tell if a product is working exceptionally well (or not at all)
    • When the vaccine is highly effective, we need less data to see it. While trials are planned for 150+ total events, this is what we need for a 60% efficacy vaccine. I say this because 94 events is a lot of data for a vaccine trial, and even more so when efficacy exceeds 90%.
    • Pfizer’s first analysis was planned for 32 events, which they pushed back after discussions with FDA. But by the time they analyzed the data, 94 had accrued. This shows how quickly trials can generate results when placed in hotspots (and how much transmission is ongoing!).
    • While the results are exciting, of course we will want to independently evaluate them. Unlike treatments, promising data from vaccines do not immediately change standard of care. The vaccines will undergo a rigorous review process first which will play out over time.
    • Things I will be most interested in seeing:
      • How well does the vaccine prevent severe disease?
      • How well does the vaccine prevent infection?
      • How well does the vaccine work across different subgroups (e.g. the elderly)?
    • We also do not want to interfere with the conduct of other ongoing trials. Where Pfizer’s product remains limited, placebo-controlled follow-up is critical. We will need many vaccines to meet demand, including vaccines that can be delivered to resource-limited settings.
    • But overall this is great news for Pfizer and for other vaccines in development, as they are targeting the same protein. And it is a testament to just how quickly this research is moving.
  • The vaccine developed jointly by Pfizer and BionTech also crucially relies on cutting edge technology from an Austrian firm for its vaccine.
    • Polymun Scientific Immunbiologische Forschung GmbH, based near Klosterneuburg just beyond the outskirts of Vienna, is one of a select few companies globally to specialize in lipid nanoparticles, microscopic vessels used to deliver genetic material into the body.
    • These lipid nanoparticles wrap and protect the genetic material of a vaccine that needs to be injected and safely arrive in the body to make a difference.
    • The family-owned company with 90 employees is firmly embedded into the country’s biotech and research cluster, with the Institute of Science and Technology (IST) Austria in Klosterneuburg and the Vienna Biocenter both nearby.
  • The Pfizer/Biontech vaccine is one of the frontrunners in the race for a vaccine for the coronavirus, together with the vaccines developed by Moderna and another one developed jointly by Oxford University/Astra Zeneca.
    • Pfizer/Biontech as well as Moderna base their vaccine on the new and promising mRNA technology, which allows rapid scaling up of production.
    • Oxford University/Astra Zenece based their vaccine on a classical vector approach.
    • The Pfizer/Biontech vaccine has to be stored at -60 degrees Celsius, making a continuous cooling chain essential for a successful vaccination program.
    • Countries such as Germany have recently already started to prepare for such a vaccination campaign, with storage sties and vaccination spots being set up all over the country.
  • A group of Austrian scientists from different fields of expertise called for an immediate closure of schools and “mandatory home office wherever possible.”
    • Mathematician Peter Markowich, computer scientist Georg Gottlob and the two physicists Christoph Nägerl and Erich Gornik, all winners of the Wittgenstein Prize in past decades, called Austria’s “lockdown light” far too soft.
    • On the current trajectory, they see Austria “according to all scientific evidence” hurtling towards “the disaster of overloaded hospitals, where physicians would have to make Triage and untreated patients would be left to die.”
    • The four scientists further emphasized that schools are “one of the drivers of respiratory viruses, that is a proven fact. Austrian studies that try to prove the opposite are methodologically wrong or outdated.”
  • Neighboring Czechia reported yesterday the lowest number of new infections in four weeks.
    • With 3,608 new cases on Sunday, the country reported almost half of the Austrian number on the same day and nearly 3,000 less than one week before.
    • Only 200 new cases were reported in the capital Prague on Sunday.
    • Czechia has been the country with the highest number of new infections in the European Union in the last couple of weeks. It entered a partial and increasingly strict lockdown on October 22, closing shops, restaurants, bars and also schools.
    • With the 7-day-incidence now finally falling, local associations demand that at least elementary schools and kindergartens be opened again.
    • Czechia also introduced new rules for travelers from abroad. Everyone coming from a red country – i.e. currently all of Europe, except Germany, Scandinavia, the Baltics and Greece – must fill in an arrival form and either show a negative PCR test result or enter a 14-day quarantine.
    • As the virus curves show, Czechia and Slovenia are currently successfully bringing the number of new cases down from high levels, while they are still on the rise in all other countries of the region (click on tweet and picture below for more details).
  • The number of active coronavirus infections in Austria stands at 77,924, as of Sunday, 14:00 o’clock, according to the AGES dashboard.
    • That is an increase of +2,808 since the day before.
    • The number of currently active infections overtook for the first time the number of people who we know recovered from the virus, which stands at 73,249 (+1,707). However, due to the large number of asymptomatic cases, it is likely that a significantly higher number of people already had the virus unknowingly.
    • A total of 2,574 patients with COVID-19 are being treated in Austrian hospitals (+70); of those, 432 patients are getting intensive care (+1).
    • Seven people have passed away with or due to COVID-19 from Saturday to Sunday. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 1,335 people in Austria have died from the virus.
  • Bavaria tightened coronavirus restrictions for travelers.
    • Everyone who spent more than 24 hours outside of the country and comes back will now have to quarantine for 10 days.
    • Exceptions apply for commuters in the border areas.

November 8, 2020

  • Today Health Minister Rudolf Anschober warned that further restrictions will be implemented if the number of daily new infections and patients in intensive care does not go down.
    • He called today’s number of positive tests “still dramatically high” and the number of intensive care patients “worrying.”
  • Austrian ministries reported 5,933 new infections within the last 24 hours.
    • With 1,608 new infections, Upper Austria reported the most new cases, followed by 1,370 in Lower Austria, 808 in Tyrol, 752 in Styria, 522 in Vienna, 319 in Vorarlberg, 215 in Burgenland, 195 in Carinthia, and 144 in Salzburg.
    • The current seven-day incidence is 461 per 100,000 residents.
    • According to the AGES dashboard, there are 77,924 active cases in the country.
    • 3,451 patients are currently being treated in Austrian hospitals. 459 of which are in intensive care.
    • 1,411 have died with or from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
  • In the future, Aventrium projects that they will produce a minimum of 10,000 FFP2-masks a day. The Styrian firm recently acquired 15 machines that produce the masks.
  • On future weekends, civil servants will be employed at Lower Austrian nursing homes to support the visitor management. They will be ordered to measure people’s temperatures and ensure visitors adhere to the social distancing measures.
  • Corona clusters at nursing homes are growing, especially in facilities located in Lower Austria.
  • The new President-elect Joe Biden is expected to present his corona task force tomorrow.
    • He already announced the two leaders of his team: Vivek Murthy, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama and served as the nation’s top health advisor between 2014 and 2017, and the former head of the FDA David Kessler.
  • As part of Slovakia’s mass testing program, authorities tested millions of residents this weekend. 1.3 million people were tested on Saturday, of which only 0.63 percent exhibited a positive result.
  • In a video, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that doctors, caretakers, and people belonging to risk group will be the first to get a corona vaccine.
    • Germany recorded 16,017 new infections within the last 24 hours.
  • Italy reported 32,616 new corona cases and 331 new deaths today.
  • Today South Tyrol announced new measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Schools will be shut in some parts of the region, and people will only be allowed to leave their home if they have a reason.

November 7, 2020

  • Today Vienna’s Health Councillor Peter Hacker and Education Councillor Jürgen Czernohorszky told APA that people over the age of 20 are almost exclusively responsible for the rapid rise in corona cases in the city.
    • On the other hand, people under the age of 19 on average only make up under 40 to 100 cases.
    • At the start of the school semester in September, the portion of infected youth was around 21 percent and now it has fallen to 14 percent.
    • Right now, an increasing number of teenagers between 16 and 20 are becoming infected with the virus, while there is only a moderate rise in cases among children up to age ten.
  • The Viennese Gesundheitsbund (Health Association) called the increase in the number of hospital patients “critical.” 531 patients are currently being treated in Viennese hospitals, 115 of which are in intensive care.
  • Since the start of the second lockdown in Austria, the police have filed 102 complaints for violations of the nightly curfew. The most occurred in Vienna.
  • A survey found that the majority of Austrians support the newest corona restrictions in the country. 55 percent consider the nightly curfew appropriate, 8 even say it isn’t very strict, and 33 believe the curfew is exaggerated.
    • 42% perceive the second lockdown as a sign that the government has lost control of the situation, but the majority, 54%, does not really or not at all believe that.
    • 51% believe the current situation is more critical than in the spring, 23% believe it is similar, 19% perceive it as less critical, and 7% has no opinion.
    • In a survey conducted by Peter Hajek on ATV, 77 percent of participants claimed that people in their surroundings abide by the nightly curfew.
    • A survey conducted by the Research-Affairs-Institute for the daily newspaper Österreich discovered that 55% consider Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s crisis management positive.
  • Austrian ministries reported 8,241 new corona cases within the last 24 hours.
    • With 2,279 new cases, Upper Austria recorded the highest number of infections, followed by 1,107 in Vienna, 1,099 in Lower Austria, 1,021 in Tyrol, 790 in Styria, 457 in Carinthia, 402 in Vorarlberg, and 274 in Burgenland.
    • The 7-day incidence is 447.3 per 100,000 residents.
    • There are 73,959 active cases in the country.
    • 3,006 patients are currently being treated in Austrian hospitals. 431 of which are in intensive care.
    • In total, 1,318 people have died with or from COVID-19 in Austria since the start of the pandemic.
    • Since the start of the second lockdown in Austria, the police have filed 102 complaints for violations of the nightly curfew. The most occurred in Vienna.
  • Austrian ministries reported 8,241 new corona cases within the last 24 hours.
    • With 2,279 new cases, Upper Austria recorded the highest number of infections, followed by 1,107 in Vienna, 1,099 in Lower Austria, 1,021 in Tyrol, 790 in Styria, 457 in Carinthia, 402 in Vorarlberg, and 274 in Burgenland.
    • The 7-day incidence is 447.3 per 100,000 residents.
    • There are 73,959 active cases in the country.
    • 3,006 patients are currently being treated in Austrian hospitals. 431 of which are in intensive care.
    • In total, 1,318 people have died with or from COVID-19 in Austria since the start of the pandemic.
  • On Ö1’s Morgenjournal, Health Minister Rudolf Anschober hinted at new corona restrictions if the number of intensive care patients exceeds 850.
  • Labor Minister Christine Aschbacher wants to employ the old and long-term unemployed as contact tracers. Many federal states cannot keep up with contact tracing and have reported a shortage of personnel.
    • All states except for Burgenland and Vienna are interested.
    • So far, this has helped 32,600 people gain employment.
  • Due to the new lockdown, all in-person events had to be cancelled. However, blood drives can still take place under strict restrictions. Blood is always needed in the medical sector.
  • The intensive care unit in the hospital in Hohenems in Vorarlberg is full.
  • Today, France recorded over 60,000 new infections. This is a new record.
  • Germany reported 23,399 new cases within the last 24 hours.
  • The Hungarian government has announced that it wants to try the Russian vaccine on its population. Starting December, Hungary will order “small amounts of the vaccine” and test it in clinical studies.
    • Starting on the second week of January, the Hungarian government will request deliveries with “larger amounts” of the vaccine.

November 6, 2020

  • Today Slovenia put all Austrian federal states on its red list. Starting Sunday, all travelers coming from Austria must either present a negative test result that is no older than 48 hours or isolate for 10 days upon arrival.
    • Previously, the Slovenian government did not consider Carinthia as risk area.
  • 6,464 new infections were reported in Austria within the last 24 hours. This is less than yesterday.
    • According to the AGES dashboard, the 7-day incidence is 422.2 per 100,000 people.
    • There are currently 68,344 active cases within the country.
    • 2,925 people are being treated in Austrian hospitals. 421 of which are being treated in intensive care units.
    • 1,340 people have died with or from COVID-19 in Austria since the start of the pandemic. In just one week, 258 people have died from the virus.
  • In a press conference today, Health Minister Rudolf Anschober called the number of new infections “dramatically high.” If the number of patients in intensive care units continues to rise at the current rate, he projects that by the end of November, we will hit our capacity limit.
    • Anschober mentioned that the number of positive cases are increasing in nursing homes. Therefore, the government will expand testing and introduce new measures in this area.
    • He indicated that it will take 10 to 15 days to see the effect of the second lockdown in the daily number of new infections.
    • The spokeswoman for the corona commission Daniela Schmid said 72 percent of the corona cases in the country can no longer be traced. Last week, 50 percent of the infections could still be traced.
    • The average age of those infected is currently 43.
    • 10 to 14 year-olds still do not seem to be creating corona-clusters. However, the virus seems to be spreading at schools. Adults are reportedly bringing corona into the institutions.
    • The CEO of Health Austria Herwig Ostermann projects an increase in cases despite the lockdown. He predicts that we will have 6,000 daily cases by mid-November.
    • Out of 100 patients, one must be treated in intensive care and six more in the regular sections at hospitals. Hospital patients must on average be treated for 10.4 days, while intensive care patients are on average being treated for 12.6 days.
    • Ostermann projects that there will be 3,500 normal hospital patients and 750 patients in intensive care by mid-November.
https://twitter.com/YilmazGulum/status/1324699180250599426
  • Education Minister Heinz Faßmann denied rumors that indicated that schools will be closed starting on Monday. The ministry is reevaluating their decision every two weeks.
    • Currently, kindergartens and elementary and middle schools are still open. The upper high school classes have switched to remote instruction.
  • A corona cluster has developed in a home for asylum-seekers in Eisenstadt in Burgenland. 63 individuals have tested positive for the virus.
  • Viennese schools have cancelled their “Tag der offenen Tür” (“Open Door Day”) this year. 700 schools in the city host this event annually, in which parents and prospective students can visit and discover the schools’ offerings.
  • The Christkindlmarkt (Christmas market) in St. Pölten has been cancelled. The ice rink on the Rathausplatz is scheduled to open on January 21.
  • The corona commission has classified the entire country as a red zone, indicating a very high infection risk.
  • In a press conference today, the federal government presented the “New Corona Aid Package for Affected Industries.”
    • Starting today at 14:00, firms and their accountants can request an 80% income replacement via FinanzOnline. The exact amount is drawn from 2019 tax forms. Employees must sign a job protection waiver.
      • The government has created this specifically for firms that are closed for business, due to the newest corona restrictions.
    • The government is providing a “Fixkostenzuschuss II” (“Fixed Cost Grant”), capped at 800,000 Euro. There will be a similar measure for NGOs. The application will open this month.
    • Tourism Minister Elisabeth Köstinger announced that there will be an adjustment of the Kurzarbeit (short-term employment) rules for restaurants and bars, as they are especially affected by the lockdown.
    • Additionally, gastronomy employees will receive a 100 Euro tip grant.
    • The existing aid fund for artists will be extended until March 2021. Artists will also be awarded a one-time 1,300 Euro grant.
    • The government has established a special fund for cultural institutions that previously have not received aid. In total, the Austrian government is providing 200 million Euro in aid to the cultural sector.
  • The City of Vienna is developing a “digital symptom checker.” According to Health Councilor Peter Hacker (SPÖ), it will serve as a “self test” that will help people identify whether they have corona symptoms. It can be accessed here.
    • The self test consists of 20 yes or no questions.
    • If, after completing the symptom checker, an individual believes they have COVID-19, they can set up an appointment for a corona test – either at a testing street or directly at home.
    • This will reduce pressure on the city’s corona hotline 1450.
  • In Vienna, the number of new infections exceeded 1,000 for the first time yesterday. Hacker urged Viennese who were on vacation in the autumn to get tested. “Even if it was only a short vacation in the Weinstrasse, it makes sense to get tested”, Hacker said.
    • The two test streets on the Danube Isand and near the Ernst Happel Station are open daily from 6:00 to 21:00, also during the lockdown. According to Hacker, they are exempt from the 20:00 curfew.
    • Vienna is also working on creating a third testing street by the beginning of December. According to Hacker’s spokesman, it will be located in the West of the city. Several location along the Wiental are currently being considered.
  • The City of Linz has announced that it will need to borrow money to award corona aid. This will strain the city’s budget.
  • Today Germany recorded over 20,000 new infections for the first time.
  • The United States has reported 120,553 new coronavirus infections for the second day in a row. This is the third time in seven days that the number of confirmed new infections has exceeded the 100,000 mark.
https://twitter.com/syramadad/status/1324519120826703874
  • During an anti-lockdown demonstration in London, police arrested more than 100 participants. A partial lockdown has been in effect in the United Kingdom since yesterday. Restaurants, bars, stores, and cultural institutions are closed until the end of November.

November 5, 2020

  • In the last 24 hours, Vienna has reported for the first time more than 1,000 new infections – a total of 1,231, to be precise.
    • The City Councilor of Health, Peter Hacker (SPÖ), has thus called on all people who went on holidays during the fall vacation week to get tested.
    • Two free “testing streets” are already available in the city (on at the Stadion, another on the Donauinsel) for Viennese coming back from holidays or another federal state; a third one will be set up shortly.
    • People can go there by foot or by car if they have no or, in the case of the Donauinsel testing site, only mild symptoms. They need to bring their e-card, a Meldezettel (registration of residence in Vienna) and a piece of paper with their name, address, e-mail address and phone number.
  • At Viennese schools, a total of 5,910 “gargling tests” have been conducted in the month between September 21 and October 23.
    • Of those, 208 were positive, that’s 3.52%.
    • On average, the results came in between 24 and 48 hours after the testing.
    • In the future, the tests will arrive per bike courier organized by the company Veloce.
  • From yesterday to today, 6,620 new cases of coronavirus have been reported in Austria as of 09:00 today.
    • Currently, there are 59,172 active cases across the country. The 7-day-incidence rose to 379 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants.
    • A total of 2,431 patients with COVID-19 are being treated in Austrian hospitals, 366 of which in intensive care.
    • Since the beginning of the pandemic, 1,204 in Austria have died with or due to the virus.
  • The Institute for Economic Research (WIFO) has published a new, extraordinarily bleak forecast for the Austrian economy.
    • Due to new lockdown measures, Austria’s economy is projected to shrink by -7.7% this year (compared to a previous forecast of -6.8%).
    • Next year, in 2021, the WIFO expects the economy to only grow +2.8% (instead of +4.4%) starting from a considerably lower level. Only in 2022 does the institute expect a more robust recovery.
    • In a second “risk scenario” if the lockdown has to become even harsher, the economy would shrink by -9.3% and stagnate with a plus of only +0.4% next year.
    • The number of unemployed – according to the stricter Austrian calculation – is projected to rise to 417,000 this year and 427,000 next year.
    • For this year, the WIFO expects a budget deficit of -10.8%; for next year, -8.2%.

  • Starting today, new visitor rules apply in Viennese elderly care homes.
    • Visits are still possible, but will take place in a secure setting and with masks.
    • Testing – both the gargling PCR test and rapid antigen tests – will take place regularly to detect outbreaks early.

November 4, 2020

  • Austrian Ministries reported 6,211 new cases in the last 24 hours.
    • 1,510 infections were recorded in Upper Austria, 1,143 in Tyrol, 880 in Lower Austria, 845 in Vienna, 461 in Styria, 437 in Salzburg, 426 in Carinthia, 306 in Vorarlberg, and 203 in Burgenland.
    • There are currently 59,172 cases in Austria.
    • 2,584 patients are being treated in Austrian hospitals. 383 are in intensive care units.
    • So far, 1,204 people have died with or from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
  • Yesterday Viennese Health Minister Peter Hacker announced a third testing street for the city.
    • He justified this, as the city can “only” trace 43 percent of the corona infections.
    • Hacker also said that all individuals in nursing homes will be tested.
    • To create more space for corona patients in Viennese hospitals, non-urgent operations will be cancelled.
  • Tourism Director Norbert Kettner warns that Viennese hotels have no more financial reserves. If they don’t receive federal aid, many of them will no longer exist in 2021, he says.
  • On Thursday, Italy will enter a light lockdown, which will last until December 3. The new measures will include a nightly curfew from 22:00.
    • Museums and exhibitions must close.
    • The government introduced a limit to the number of people allowed on public transport.
    • Shopping centers will be closed on weekends.
    • School children above the age of six must wear masks. Middle and high school students will transition to distance learning.
    • People should transition to home office.
    • Grocery stores, pharmacies, and magazine stand will remain open.
    • Yesterday Viennese Health Minister Peter Hacker announced a third testing street for the city.
    • He justified this, as the city can “only” trace 43% of the corona infections.
    • Hacker also said that all individuals in nursing homes will be tested.
    • To create more space for corona patients in Viennese hospitals, non-urgent operations will be cancelled.
  • On Thursday, Italy will enter a light lockdown, which will last until December 3. The new measures will include a nightly curfew from 22:00.
    • Museums and exhibitions must close.
    • The government introduced a limit to the number of people allowed on public transport.
    • Shopping centers will be closed on weekends.
    • School children above the age of six must wear masks. Middle and high school students will transition to distance learning.
    • People should transition to home office.
    • Grocery stores, pharmacies, and magazine stand will remain open.
  • After testing two-thirds of its population, the Slovakian government sent 38,000 people into isolation.
  • In France, the Charlie Hebdo trials were interrupted, as three defendants have tested positive for the virus.
  • Germany reported 17,214 new infections within the last 24 hours.
  • With almost 19,800 new cases, Russia recorded an all-time-high in new infections.

November 3, 2020

  • The City of Vienna employed 250 new contact tracers since mid-September. 300 more are expected to join the team in the next few weeks and months.
    • In September, the city received 1,200 applications. Contract-tracers earn 1,831 Euro brutto.
  • 4,182 new cases were reported within Austria in the last 24 hours.
    • With 1,098 infections, Upper Austria reported the most new cases, followed by 830 in Vienna, 592 in Styria, 560 in Tyrol, 500 in Vorarlberg, 236 in Salzburg, 234 in Carinthia, and 132 in Burgenland.
      • Due to a technical mistake, Lower Austria did not report any new infections today.
    • According to the AGES dashboard, there are now 54, 812 active cases in Austria.
    • The 7-day incidence is at 356 per 100,000 residents
    • 2,431 patients are currently being treated in Austrians hospitals. 366 are in intensive care units.
    • 1,192 people have died with or from COVID-19 in the country since the start of the pandemic.
  • Staring Nov. 15, Slovakia will require all travelers from Austria to enter with a negative corona test result. Alternatively, individuals can take a fast test at the border.
  • The Austrian Health Ministry is currently working on a corona vaccine strategy. For 8 million Austrians, the ministry estimated a 200 Million Euro budget.
    • The ministry said that Austrians should “voluntarily” be allowed to get the vaccine. The goal is to get enough of the vaccine for the entire population – “no matter if one or two doses are needed t protect” one from the virus.
    • Health Minister Rudolf Anschober said that it is currently unclear when and for which age group a COVID-19 vaccine will be approved. He acknowledged that, at the beginning, there won’t be enough for the entire population.
  • Today the federal state of Tyrol declared a general visitor ban for hospital facilities. Individual exceptions will be made. For example, fathers can still be there during the birth of their child.
    • The state plans to get 600,000 antigen tests in the next four months. These tests tae 20 minutes and will be utilized in schools, nursing homes, and doctors offices.
  • While the social partners call for grocery stores to close early at 19:00, firms like REWE (Billa, Merkur, Penny, Adeg, Bipa) and Spar are refusing to do so.
  • In a speech, President Alexander Van der Bellen urged people to follow the new corona measures.
  • The press conference that had been scheduled for today, concerning school and corona, has been cancelled due to last night’s terrorist attack in the inner city.
  • The second lockdown has been in effect since midnight.
    • There is a curfew from 20:00 to 6:00.
    • All events are canceled.
    • Hotels are closing, only business trips are still permitted.
    • Restaurants, bars, and pubs are now closed. Takeaway and delivery is still available, but only until 20:000.
    • Universities and the Oberstufe (classes for students older than 14) switched to remote learning.
    • Schools for younger children and kindergartens are remaining open for now. This will be reviewed after 14 days.
    • Shops, stores, and personal services, such as hairdressers, barbers, physiotherapists and others, are still open.
    • If possible, people are recommended to work from home.
  • Due to a rise in cases, neighboring Hungary declared a state of emergency and introduced a nightly curfew from 0:00 to 5:00. These new measures will go into effect tomorrow at 0:00 and will last for 15 days. Minister President Victor Orban can extend them for 90 more days.
    • Hungary reported 3,989 new infections today.
  • Following three weeks of partial lockdown, the Netherlands now introduced even stricter measures to curb the spread of the virus. For now, these will be in effect for the next two weeks.
    • Prime Minister Mark Rutte urged people to “stay at home as much as possible.”
    • He also said, “Do not go shopping for fun.”
    • He advised people not to leave the country until mid-January.
    • The Netherlands also designated Germany as a risk area, and Rutte discouraged non-urgent travels the country. Travelers entering the Netherlands from Germany must now quarantine for 10 days.
    • Today, the country reported less than 8,000 infections for the first time in three weeks. 7,776 new cases were reported within the Netherlands.
  • Italy reported 28,244 new infections within the past 24 hours.
  • 15,352 cases were reported in Germany today.
  • Czechia recorded 9,241 new cases in the last 24 hours.

November 2, 2020

  • The share of COVID-19 tests that were positive has recently skyrocketed in Austria, from around 5% a month ago to more than 17% today.
    • That is only a little shy of the peak positive rates in spring, but now with a about three times more tests every day.
    • Positive rates in excess of 5% indicate a large number of undetected cases.
    • The positive rate is particularly high and rising quickly in Upper Austria, Vorarlberg and Tyrol. Vienna is currently the only federal state with a positive rate under 15%.
    • See first tweet below for daily tests performed (in black) and positive rates (in red) in all of Austria; see second tweet below for the same for each federal state.
  • Austria’s social partners (i.e. associations of employers and employees) have decided to close all shops and stores already at 19:00 during the time of the second lockdown.
    • This earlier closing time should ensure that the night-time curfew starting at 20:00 can be kept by both customers and workers in the sector.
  • In the last 24 hours, 4,135 new infections have been reported in Austria, as of 09:30 today.
    • Currently, 2,161 patients with COVID-19 are being treated in Austrian hospitals (+168 since yesterday), 336 of which are getting intensive care (+45 since yesterday).
    • Since the beginning of the pandemic, 1,159 people have died from or with COVID-19 in Austria, 29 since yesterday.
    • The number of new infections reported in the last 24 hours was distributed among the federal states in the following manner:
      • Upper Austria: 835
      • Lower Austria: 689
      • Styria: 620
      • Vienna: 578
      • Tyrol: 441
      • Salzburg: 404
      • Vorarlberg: 377
      • Burgenland: 105
      • Carinthia: 86
  • Austria will enter its second lockdown at midnight, 00:00 tonight, on Tuesday, November 2.
    • Fines can be imposed for not following the new rules, for instance:
      • A fine of €25 for not wearing a mask where it is mandatory.
      • A penalty of €50 for not keeping the minimum distance.
      • Up to €1,450 if people do not respect the nightly curfew (or have a legitimate reason for going out).
      • For business such as restaurants and bars, fines of up to €30,000 are possible.
  • In a press conference today, Health Minister Rudolf Anschober (Greens) said that the number of patients needing intensive care in Austria has risen by 78% in merely a week.
    • Currently, out of 100 newly admitted patients for a respiratory disease, 40 test positive for SARS-CoV-2.
    • With cases rising fast, the potential demand on hospital capacities could be “up to ten times higher than with the flu in a normal year,” said Monika Redl-Fritz, Head of the Virology Center Vienna.
    • Experts at the press conference also expressed their views that two vaccines – that of AstraZeneca based on a vector vaccine and that of Pfizer/BionTech based on mRNA technology – will be available for distribution in the first quarter of 2021.
    • Anschober said that explosive jumps have started around October 20, outpacing forecasts and necessitating hard steps to contain the virus.
    • The health minister and experts underlined that hospitals are safe spaces, also for patients who have other needs and illnesses than COVID-19 and people should not be afraid to seek care if they need it.
  • Education and Science Minister Heinz Faßmann (ÖVP) presented today in a press conference the new measures for schools and universities.
    • As already announced on Saturday, universities and schools for students older than 14 (the Oberstufe) will switch to distance learning effect immediately.
    • Every teacher will get FFP2 masks for personal use.
  • The effectiveness of contact tracing has decreased markedly from calendar week 42 (Oct. 12-18) to calendar week 43 (Oct. 19-25) all across Austria.
    • In Tyrol, only 35.44% of contacts could be traced back in week 43 (compared to 60.21% the week before; in Vienna only 43.11% (compared to 56.22% in the preceding week).
  • In Austria, the 7-day incidence of new cases has risen to 322 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in the last week.
    • However, some regions – particularly in Upper Austria, but not only – have developed into coronavirus hotspots in recent days, as can be seen in their district-level 7 day incidence:
      • Eferding: 829 (new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 7 days)
      • Schwaz:; 791
      • Rohrbach: 741
      • Grieskirchen: 685
      • Thornbirn: 636
      • St. John in Pongau: 624
      • Eisenstadt: 615
      • Schärding: 583
      • Freistadt : 542
      • Ried im Innkreis: 536
      • Kufstein: 528
      • Gmunden: 507
      • Wiener Neustadt: 506
      • Urfahr-Umgebung: 494
      • Innsbruck (city): 494
      • Steyr-Land : 460
      • Oberwart: 459
      • Lilienfeld: 457
      • Gmünd: 454
      • Wels: 441

November 1, 2020

  • The social partners have reached an agreement with Labor Minister Christine Aschbacher (ÖVP) about the new rules for the Kurzarbeit (short-term employment) scheme.
    • Employees of places that have been ordered to close according to the newest corona measures can reduce their working hours to 0.
    • Employees earn up to 90% of their income and are guaranteed their job.
    • Kurzarbeit can be request for a maximumsix months.
    • The prerequisite is that employees have been employed since October.
    • People who are already on the short-term employment scheme do not need to reapply.
    • Employers can only request Kurzarbeit for their employees if they guarantee the jobs.
  • 4,956 new infections were reported within Austria in the last 24 hours.
    • With 1,198 cases, Upper Austria recorded the most new infections, followed by 871 in Vienna, 734 in Lower Austria, 528 in Styria, 474 in Tyrol, 398 in Vorarlberg, 244 in Carinthia, and 160 in Burgenland.
    • According to the AGES dashboard, there are currently 50,922 active infections within Austria.
    • 1,948 people are currently being treated in Austrian hospitals. 291 patients are in intensive care units.
    • So far, 1,114 people have died with or from COVID-19 since the pandemic.
  • All the I.C.U beds in the Stadtspital (City Hospital) Dornbirn in Vorarlberg are occupied.
    • Half of the eight beds are filled with corona patients. 15 more patients are being treated in the regular units, and 11 suspected cases are also being treated.
    • According to the AGES dashboard, 653 I.C.U. beds are still available in the entire country.
  • Austrian internists warn of the physical repercussions of the second lockdown. In the spring, many people had suffered from weight gain, bad blood sugar levels, and too high blood pressure. Doctors urge the people to remain active this time around.
    • A study conducted by the MedUni Wien found that people that are age 38 on average gained up to four kilograms between March 16 and April 26.
    • Long walks and biking are recommended.
  • The federal government is expected to announce new Kurzarbeit (short-term employment) rules for the November lockdown. The government has already announced new rules for the home office, which are expected to be extended until March 2021.
    • Under the new ruling, employees will only need to work for 10 works, rather than the current 30 hours. This is the same as in the spring.
    • Employees are free to stay at home, so businesses that will close for the month can implement the short-term employment scheme.
  • In an interview in ORF Heute, Viennese Mayor Michael Ludwig said that the Christkindlmärke (Christmas markets) cannot take place as of right now, given the newest corona measures. The opening, which was planned for this month, will most likely be postponed until December.
    • Ludwig also criticized the federal government for not informing the states of their decision earlier.
    • The opening of the Wiener Weinachtstraum and the Christmas market on the Rathaus will also be postponed to December.
  • FPÖ head Norbert Hofer has tested positive for COVID-19. His wife had been infected a few days ago. According to a press briefing by the party, he is only experiencing mild symptoms.
  • The 7-day incidence is above 300. As of yesterday 14:000, it is 301 per 100,000 people.

  

For length, clarity and loading times, we decided to split off the timeline of what happened in recent months into several separate articles:

The Coronavirus in Austria & Vienna | What Happened in March
The Coronavirus in Austria & Vienna | What Happened in April
The Coronavirus in Austria & Vienna | What Happened in May
The Coronavirus in Austria & Vienna | What Happened in June
The Coronavirus in Austria & Vienna | What Happened in July
The Coronavirus in Austria & Vienna | What Happened in August
The Coronavirus in Austria & Vienna | What Happened in September
The Coronavirus in Austria & Vienna | What Happened in October
The Coronavirus in Austria & Vienna | What Happened in November

 

Numbers

As of today, November 28, 2020, the situation in Austria according to the Ministry of Health and the AGES dashboard is as follows:

People tested: 3,061,067
– of which in Vienna: 823,390
Daily tests: 40,205

Confirmed cases: 274,312
– of which in Vienna: 58,432
Active cases: 61,946
– of which in Vienna: 11,836

Total hospitalized: 4,279 (-126 cases (-2.9%) since yesterday)
– of which in Vienna: 660
In intensive care: 688 (-15 cases (-2.1%) since yesterday)
– of which in Vienna: 133

Recovered: 210,679 (+7,446 cases (+3.7%) since yesterday)
– of which in Vienna: 46,596
Deceased: 3,018 (+132 case (+4.6%) since yesterday)
– of which in Vienna: 602

The Ministry of Health has also developed a COVID-19 dashboard with details on the coronavirus outbreak in Austria, listing for example affected regions, age groups, gender and status of the cases.

The privately organized coronatracker also provides up-to-date information on the virus in Austria (in German).

Austrian tech & startup media house Trending Topics has also set up a comprehensive tracking board for the coronavirus in Austria (in German).

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 telephone: 1450

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.

How to wash your hands, properly

The World Health Organization (WHO) as well as national and international health organizations stress how crucial proper hand-hygiene is to slow the spread of the disease.

Make sure that you and everybody around you clean their hands regularly, properly (20 seconds or more) and with soap – soap actually kills the virus.

Reduce physical contact (instead of handshake do an elbow bunch or Vulcan greeting, for instance) where possible.

We will keep updating this page as new developments unfold. Keep safe, keep informed and live long and prosper 🖖!

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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

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