January 4, 2021
News from Austria
- Austria’s lockdown will extend until January 24.
- The government had planned a scheme of “testing oneself free” (“Freitesten”) to get access to shops, restaurants and culture starting already on January 18.
- The plan was rejected by the opposition parties and can thus not pass parliament’s upper chamber (the Bundesrat) in time to enter into force before the relevant dates.
- Health Minister Rudolf Anschober (Greens) confirmed that the scheme will not come as planned.
- The lockdown will thus official extend until January 24 for everyone – shops, hotels, services, restaurants, bars and cultural institutions will remain shut.
- Schools will restart distance teaching on January 7 and in-person instructions on January 18, according to the current plans of the Ministry of Education.
- August Wöginger, head of the ÖVP’s parliamentary caucus, said “Lockdown means lockdown” when asked whether schools would remain closed.
- The British coronavirus mutation dubbed B.1.1.7 was confirmed in Austria.
- The variant was detected in four people in Austria that were tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, as Health Minister Rudolf Anschober (Greens) confirmed at a press conference today.
- Three out of the four with the new variant are children, bolstering early indications that the new strain is spreading significantly faster particularly among children (note that this does not make the disease more dangerous for children themselves – it does, however, indicate that it makes their role in the spread of the virus bigger).
- One person with the new South African strain of the virus was also been confirmed.
- Austrian ministries recorded 1,642 new cases in the past 24 hours.
- After falling for several weeks, active cases and the number of hospitalized patients and those in intensive care (ICU) have been increasing again recently.
- The 7-day-incidence of new infections in Austria has risen to 165 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
|Active cases||Hospitalized||In intensive care (ICU)||Deaths|
|Daily Tests||Recovered||Tested Positive|
Source: Austrian Ministry of Health, January 4, 2021.
- After falling for several weeks, the test positivity rate in Austria is now creeping up again.
- After dipping below 10% in the middle of December as a result of the second lockdown, it has since risen above that threshold again (the WHO recommends a test positivity rate of max. 5% to confidently have a picture of the current spread of the virus).
- Positivity rates have risen in all federal states, also as a correlate to plunging testing rates over the holidays.
- It remains to be seen how a ramp-up of testing and the social mixing that took place during the holidays will be visible in the case data in the next couple of weeks.
- What is important to keep in mind is that Austrian ministries have so far always reported the number and results of PCR tests – a big number of rapid antigen tests has been conducted in recent weeks as well, but they are only reflected in the official data if positive and thus followed up by a PCR test.
- See below the number of tests (black) and the positivity rate (black) for Austria (first tweet) and its federal states (second tweet).
- The number of the unemployed in Austria has risen to 521,000 people in December.
- That’s 60,000 more compared to November, an increase of +28%.
- Compared to the same month in the previous year, 113,000 people more are unemployed.
- Another 417,000 people are on short-time working schemes (Kurzarbeit).
- Johannes Kopf, Head of Austria’s labor market service AMS, said that “the most difficult year in the labor market for decades says farewell with really bad unemployment figures.”
- Minister of Labor Christine Aschbacher (ÖVP) stated: “At the end of December 2020, the lack of a seasonal start in winter tourism is having a clear impact on crisis-related unemployment. The situation on the labor market is currently enormously challenging.”
- Austria’s unemployment rate according to Eurostat calculation thus stands at 5.4%, on percentage point above the pre-crisis level of 4.4%.
News from Elsewhere
- For an overview of current COVID-19 cases broken down to the regional level in Europe, check out this website.
- New studies in the UK suggest that children are much more likely than adults to be the first case of Covid in a household.
- Children aged 12-16 are nearly x8 times more likely.
- They are also more likely to transmit to others in the households.
- The new findings are particularly important as the debate about reopening schools and kindergartens heat up.
- Furthermore, the new mutant virus version B117 currently spreading in the UK seems to be more infectious particularly among children, early indicators suggest.
- Israel has so far vaccinated 11.5% of their population and will soon have given everyone older than 60 years their first vaccine jab.
- This rapid rollout stands in stark contrast to the vaccination campaigns in most of the rest of the world, including the US, UK and continental Europe.
- Vaccination there have just started and are held back by supply bottlenecks, organizational problems and a slow pace of the rollout.