CoV on Jan 11-17 | Lockdown Extended Until Feb. 7

The coronavirus is shaping our lives. Here’s what happened in regards to COVID-19 in Austria in the week of Jan. 11-17, 2021.

Find here the daily COVID-19 updates for Austria, with everything you need to know about the Coronavirus in Austria, brought to you by Benjamin Wolf, Amina Frassl and Daniel El-Sabeh.

We compiled for you an overview of the rules in force over the holidays and Christmas and a detailed guide on traveling to Austria during that period.

Austria’s government announced another hard lockdown that will start on December 26 and go through January 24, here are the rules of the lockdown in Austria in detail. This lockdown has since been extended until February 7.

Here’s an overview of where you can get tested for COVID-19 in Vienna. If everything is a bit much for you or you experience domestic violence of any kind, here is our mental health resource article.

Here is a wrap-up of the measures currently in place in Austria.

Week 2, 2021

January 17

News from Austria

  • As of 15:00 today, 120,000 Viennese and 99,100 Lower Austrian residents have pre-registered for the COVID vaccine. Register here.
  • The sales price of FFP2 mask, which will be mandatory starting Jan. 25, is yet to be determined. The masks will be sold at grocery stores, such as Bill, Hofer, Lidl, Merkur, and Spar.
    • The price depends on the procurement costs, which is unclear, as the masks are still being ordered.
  • Teachers call for the childcare provision in schools to be limited to children of essential workers. If schools should comply with lockdown rules, then the attendance must be reduced, said the teachers’ representation.
    • At some locations, up to 80% of the children were in class, said the top representative Paul Kimberger.
  • A second press conference with Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler, Finance Minister Gernot Blümel, Tourism Minister Elisabeth Köstinger, Education Minister Heinz Faßmann, and Arts and Culture State Secretary Andrea Mayer began at 13:00.
    • Vice Chancellor Kogler announced two new forms of aid for business owners in the culture, sport, tourism, and restaurant industries. These will include:
      • A bonus payment
      • Another pre-paid direct payment to create liquidity
    • Kogler also assured that the aid for culture, non-profits, etc. will be extended until June.
    • Blümel stated that the lockdown-induced financial damage will be supplemented with income replacement. So far, the government has paid 2.4 billion euros.
    • In addition to the current Fixkostenzuschuss II (Fixed cost payment II), Blümel announced a loss compensation for up to 30% of sales, up to 60,000 euros, valid for each month until the end of the crisis.
    • According to Blümel, medium-sized and large companies run the risk of reaching the limits of EU aid. In the past months, the minister had tried to negotiate with the bloc and increase this limit.
      • “We hope that the initiative will be heard,” says Blümel. He wants to raise the Fixkostenzuschuss II by 200,000 euros.
    • Köstinger speaks of an “extremely frustrating condition” in the tourism sector. In the next few weeks, restaurants and hotels will remain shut. This will have both economical and social consequences, says Köstinger.
      • According to the minister, numerous business perceive an “existential threat.”
      • Köstinger announced a “tailored solution” to the economic slump.
      • She offered three perspectives for the industry in the near future:
        • Consistent compliance with safety and social distancing measures. Köstinger condemns party and research events. These endanger the health of others.
        • Testing. The tests must be continued, and reopening is linked to that.
        • Vaccination. The minister hopes that employees will be vaccinated.
    • Education Minister Faßmann says, “I want to get the kids back to school as quickly as possible.” Distance learning for such a long time has consequences.
      • To enable the return to in-person instruction, schools are “prepared as best as possible,” said the minister.
      • Masks will be required during class, rapid tests, and reshuffling of classes will be part of the plan for reopening schools. According to Faßmann, “no country in Europe” has presented such a concept.
      • The mutated variant has changed the situation, and according to Fassmann, “schools have to go along with these stricter measures.”
      • The new date for the reopening of schools is Feb. 8 for Vienna and Lower Austria. Schools in all other federal states will resume in-person instruction on Feb. 15.
        • Details will follow.
        • The first week of February will remain school vacation. However, this year without skiing.
      • Assessment of performance will be regulated independently. “Right now is not the time of hardship, but the time of tolerance,” says Faßmann.
      • Faßmann announced a 200 million euro aid package for schools.
      • All students who are currently in accelerated German classes will need “special support” after the lockdown.
      • The school psychological counseling centers will also be open in lockdown and offer personal advice. “We will create the opportunity to offer virtual counseling session,” says Faßmann.
    • Arts and Culture State Secretary Andrea Mayer said that the new few weeks will be difficult. There will not be opera, no theater, and there is not set date for a restart. Mayer does not want to offer false hope.
    • On the other hand, museums, exhibits, libraries, and book stores will reopen on Feb. 8. Visitors must wear a FFP2 mask.
    • Mayer assured that the aid packages will apply to the culture sector. Cinemas may apply for a 15% income loss. Other facilities will receive support from the NPO-Fonds.
    • Freelance artists will receive aid from the federal Härtefallfonds and the COVID-19 fonds from the social security. These will be increased, if necessary.
    • Artists who are banned from performing are to receive a bonus, which was introduced in November and December. In addition to the other forms of aid, a total of 1,000 euros are promised in January and February.
  • At 11:00, the federal government held a press conference detailing the prolonged lockdown.
    • Chancellor Sebastian Kurz says, “The results of our consultations make us anything but happy and also make us anything but popular”.
    • Kurz:”The virus mutation from Great Britain and South Africa are much more contagious and exacerbate the situation even further”.
    • Exemplifying South Tyrol which had opened on 7 Jan. and closed again today, Kurz criticized behavior like this which “doesn’t get us anywhere” in view of the infection figures related to such a short term strategy.
    • The Federal Chancellor:”I would like to share all the information we have with you. It is expected that everything will be back to normal by Summer”.
    • The Governor of Styria, Herrmann Schützenhöfer stated that Austria held up quite well “…I want to thank the government for their courageous steps cordially…”.
    • He continued: “We are in a race, vaccination against virus. Doing the right thing is not always popular”.
    • Vice Director of the Meduni Wien (Medical University Vienna) Oswald Wagner says:”We really only have a short time to go until this pandemic will lose its horror. Like any other disease, it will only become a medical problem”.
    • He kept going:”If Variant B 1.1.7 replaces the current virus as the dominant strain, five times more cases of illness and deaths can be expected.
    • Anschober:” In 10 weeks we have end of March, then begins the Easter week, it is getting warmer that doesn’t please the virus; until then, the most vunerable groups will have been vaccinated that doesn’t please the virus at all. The tempo depends on delivery dates.”
    • He continued:”In this situation, mid-term views, give us a reason to hope that after the next 10 weeks (the most difficult phase of the pandemic) everything will be better. “However, due to the mutation, the number of new infections could increase by a factor of 10”.
    • “There are currently over 150 suspected cases with B 1.1.7, we need to buy time and lower the infection numbers so that the new strain does not overtake us.”
  • Austrian ministries reported 1,267 new infections in the past 24 hours.
    • The current 7-day incidence is 128 per 100,000 residents.
Active casesHospitalizedIn intensive care (ICU)Deaths
Total17,4781,9633287,082
Daily change-195-47-14+29
In percent-1.1%-2.3%-4.1%+0.4%
Daily Tests*RecoveredTested Positive
Total16,631369,218393,778
Daily change-6,962+1,433+1,267
In percent-29.5%+0.4%+0.3%

*daily tests refers to reported PCR tests, rapid antigen tests are not included

Source: Austrian Ministry of Health, January 17, 2021.

  • According to what was said at the press conference today, Vienna and Lower Austria will initiate school openings as of Feb. 8, all other provinces from 15.
    • From Jan. 25, wearing a FFP2 mask in means of  transportaition and its facilities, in shopping facilities as well as indoors generally, and a safety distance of 2 meters are mandatory.
    • Workers can choose between being tested and wearing the standard mask(MNS) or obligatory wearing of a FFP2 mask.
    • These will be available at cost price at supermarkets. For all persons with low-income the masks will be distributed free of charge.  
    • Regarding the gastronomy sector, a desicion on reopening will fall mid February. Until further notice Restaurant and Hotels will have to remain closed.
  • The current national lockdown will be extended until February 7. This was decided by the federal government after correspondence with state leaders late last night.
    • Starting February 8, stores, service providers “close to the body” (ie. hairdressers), and museums will reopen under strict measures.
      • FFP2 masks will be mandatory.
      • Mandated social distance will be increased to two meters.
    • Differently than recently reported, schools will also remain shut until after the semester holidays.
      • Schools will only resume in-person instruction on February 8.
      • Children in Vorarlberg, Tyrol, Burgenland, and Carinthia will be on vacation during that time.
      • In Upper Austria and Styria, the semester vacations starts on Feb. 15; a rescheduling is still being considered.
    • Restaurants, hotels, and event organizers will have to wait until the end of February to reopen their businesses.
    • The government has announced a press conference for 11:00 today to explain their decisions.
  • The social partners demand more clarity about the general situation from the federal government. “The people need plan security, what happens in which area,” said Austrian Economic Forum (WKO) President Harald Mahrer.
    • Mahrer has indicated that March would be too late to restart the economy. Reopening must take place at a “much earlier date.”
  • The opposition has also criticized the government for lacking clarity and transparency.
    • The SPÖ’s Health Spokesman Phillip Kucher stated that the government “unfortunately still lacks a long-term plan.” According to him, the SPÖ had always said that the number of infections is crucial “and not some kind of PR schemes within the chancellor’s cabinet.”
    • On the other hand, the NEOS presented themselves as more understanding. They recognize that the situation has changed due to the UK variant, but demand “more honesty and clear statements” from the government such that the people understand the new measures and feel included in the decision-making process.
    • The far-right FPÖ insisted on a quick end to the lockdown.
      • FPÖ Head Norbert Hofer said that “despite all the concerns” of the experts – whose statements he “does not doubt” – he believes ending the lockdown quickly and resuming business and work under clear measures is the better way to handle this crisis.

News from Elsewhere

  • The South African virus strain has been identified in Denmark for the first time.
    • According to the Danish Health Institute SSI, the individual infected with the mutation had recently travelled to Dubai.
  • Contrary to what the Brazilian government had hoped for, India has not delivered vaccines to the country. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s approval rating is at risk of plunging.
    • A plane was supposed to fly from the northeastern Brazilian city of Recife to India to obtain two million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
    • According to the media portal “G1,” this airplane was instead used to transport oxygen to save the country’s health system from collapsing.

Go to the next page for news from January 16.

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Amina Frassl
Amina is Metropole's former online content manager. She is a contributing writer, focusing on current news and politics. She recently received her Bachelors' degree in journalism and politics from New York University and is currently pursuing her Masters' in international affairs at Johns Hopkins SAIS.

Current Status

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

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

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

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

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

Numbers

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

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

Resources

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

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

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

Hotlines

Health advice by telephone1450

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

Coronavirus hotline AGES+43 0800 555 621

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

VKI hotline for travel law questions+43 0800 201 211

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