January 7, 2021
News from Austria
- The “Corona traffic light” could switch to orange for the first time since November, depending on recent regional developments.
- In the working document for the Traffic Light Commission meeting currently in session, a “need for discussion” is registered for 6 districts with comparatively low case numbers.
- Among them are Vienna and Innsbruck City, and the districts Krems, Horn, Korneuburg and Hollabrunn, each in Lower Austria.
- In these regions, the absolute number of cases has now been below 100 per 100,000 for some time.
- The federal capital only falls below this threshold when factors such as the number of tests and age of infected are taken into account, i.e., in the risk-adjusted incidence.
- The number of positive cases among those tested is also low in Vienna, at only 1.9%. The Austrian average is 8.9%. Carinthia has the highest value with 31.1%.
- In Vienna, just under 5,900 out of 100,000 inhabitants were tested – a figure that only Vorarlberg comes close to (4,845); in Carinthia, the figure is not even 700.
- The infection figures are going up again in the 14-day trend in almost all federal states.
- A downward trend in Vienna and Styria, a stagnating trend In Upper Austria and an unfavorable development in Salzburg, where there’s an increase of 29%, can be recorded.
- Austrian ministries reported 2,540 new infections in the last 24 hours.
- The 7-day-incidence dropped very slightly to 169 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
- The number of active cases has also started to rise again and now hovers around 21,000 known cases.
|Active cases||Hospitalized||In intensive care (ICU)||Deaths|
|Daily Tests||Recovered||Tested Positive|
Source: Austrian Ministry of Health, January 7, 2021.
- Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) has announced that the first vaccinations outside of nursing homes and care homes will still take place in January.
- Originally, vaccinations in those homes were scheduled to resume on January 12.
- After harsh criticism, the government and the federal states resumed already yesterday, January 6.
- The plan was to first vaccinate everyone in elderly and care homes in January and February, with elderly people elsewhere not getting vaccinated sooner than March.
- Now, Kurz said that the EMA’s approval of a second vaccine permits vaccinations for people over 80 years old and living outside of elderly and care homes to already start in January.
- The opposition continues to pillory the government for the slow pace of the vaccine rollout.
- After harsh criticism, the government rescheduled the resumption of vaccinations in elderly homes from January 12 to January 6. It promises to vaccinate 21,000 people still this week.
- However, according to the NEOS, a total of 135,000 doses of vaccine will be available in Austria by the end of this week due to new deliveries.
- NEOS MP Gerald Loacker said: “It is grossly negligent, even downright dangerous, for the government to leave more than 100,000 vaccine doses lying around unused.”
- The SPÖ sees the government’s course to be marked by “chaos, procrastination and glitches” which SPÖ chief Pamela Rendi-Wagner sees as adding up to a “careless” performance.
- Also the FPÖ criticized the government, pointing to the slow pace of vaccination and a scarcity of FFP2 masks in elderly and care homes.
- German pharmaceutical company Bayer and Curevac, a German biotech company, have agreed to a global partnership.
- “Under this agreement, Bayer will assist with further development and supply of CureVac’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate CVnCoV”, Bayer announced today.
- The model is similar to the alliance between German vaccine developer Biontech and U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer.
- EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides will today face questions from MEPs on the Commission’s vaccination strategy.
- The European Parliament is calling for more transparency and insight into the contracts concluded by the Commission with vaccine manufacturers.
- Citing secrecy clauses and its negotiating position, the Commission has not made details such as vaccine prices public.
- EU member states had agreed in the summer to task the Commission with negotiating supply contracts with manufacturers of future CoV vaccines.
- Most recently, there have been accusations that Brussels has been too slow and hesitant in concluding agreements, particularly with the most promising manufacturers.
News from Elsewhere
- The new SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.7, which has appeared for the first time in the UK, is worrying scientists.
- The infection rate among contacts has suddenly increased by half.
- Even if B.1.1.7 does not cause more severe disease, as previously observed, the higher infectivity could overwhelm hospitals and lead to more deaths.
- Virologist Emma Hodcroft (University of Basel) told the U.S. scientific journal Science: “I really hope that this time we see this as an early ringing of alarm bells.”
- In the U.K., Boris Johnson’s government has imposed a hard lockdown with curfew restrictions following the spike in Covid 19 disease numbers in England.
- The infectivity of the CoV variant in the U.K. is apparently 50 to 70% higher than that from South Africa.
- While much of the pandemic’s evolution in 2020 was easily predictable, he said, things would be different now. “I think we’re now entering a completely unpredictable phase.”
- Jeremy Farrar, Infectiologist at the U.K. Wellcome Trust: “One fear is that B.1.1.7 will quickly become the globally dominant variant and drive a new and very, very severe wave of disease.”
- The Public Health Agency of England found that 15% of contacts to people who were confirmed to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.7 subsequently tested positive for the virus themselves.
- Among contacts of people infected by the original SARS-CoV-2 variants, this was the case in only 10%.
- In an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Britain plans to introduce new measures at its borders.
- The rules would be announced “in the next few days,” Home Secretary Priti Patel told the BBC today. Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to comment on the situation this evening.
- Under discussion is the obligation to present a negative test result at the border. Truck drivers are to be exempt.
- Saffran Corderey, Deputy Chief Executive of the National Health Service (NHS) care units in England, reported a 27% increase in the number of Covid-19 patients in just 7 days.
- Some intensive care units in London and the east and southeast of England were operating at 140% capacity, reported Alison Pittard, Dean of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine (London).
- The Czech Republic has extended the existing lockdown measures in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
- The government’s highest warning level is now in effect until Jan. 22 for the time being. Further tightening is not ruled out, Health Minister Jan Blatny said today in Prague.
- Currently, a maximum of 2 people are allowed to meet in public.
- Stores of non-daily needs, hotels, restaurants and cultural institutions are closed.
- A curfew is in effect between 21:00 and 05:00.
- Meanwhile, the Czech Republic reported a record number of new cases for the second day in a row. Authorities recorded 17,668 positive tests within 24 hours.
- Japan has again declared a state of emergency for the Tokyo area due to a renewed sharp rise in new CoV infections. This was announced today by head of government Yoshihide Suga.
- In Denmark, which has a high rate of SARS-CoV-2 sequencing, the proportion of B.1.1.7 in the virus samples tested rose from 0.2 to 2.3% within 3 weeks.
- China is experiencing the largest outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in months.
- After having held the virus largely in check since summer, the numbers in Hebei province just outside Beijing have risen to a total of more than 200 in just a few days.
- To date, the health commission in the province around the capital reported 90 cases and 144 asymptomatic infections.
- Authorities are alarmed and declared “a state of war” in the fight against the virus.
- Transport to its capital, Shijiazhuang, were residential areas were sealed off, has been largely disrupted; roadblocks set up, Kindergartens, and compulsory school suspended.
- The new outbreak raises concerns about the upcoming travel wave ahead due to Chinese New Year on Feb. 12, authorities advised migrant workers to not return home.
Go to the next page for news from January 6.