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.

January 15

News from Austria

  • One suspected cases of the British virus mutation in Styria has been confirmed. 8 more cases are being examined for the sequence.
    • This weekend PCR testing stations will be offered for the population in Bad Aussee and Bad Mitterndorf-Tauplitz.
  • Austria must at least partially reopen its stores, anything else would be job destruction, said WKO President Harald Mahrer prior to a meeting with Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.
    • Furthermore, Mahrer said, “a closure by March is completely unthinkable for me.” Tomorrow, Kurz will discuss the situation again with all social partners.
    • Mahrer rejects a lockdown until Easter, meaning to the beginning of April, similar to that in Germany.
    • At the same time, Mahrer admitted that the country shouldn’t reopen everything at once and also not throw precautionary rules such that as masks and distances out the window.
      • He believes that the government should consult with virologists and decide how great the risk of infection is. However, major events will probably have to wait, Mahrer said.
      • He also sees that the new British mutation of the coronavirus, which is spreading much faster, has created a new situation that must be taken into account.
    • “I’m very, very sure that something has to been done at the beginning of February”, he said.
  • The first rumors about the next steps following the end of the current lockdown are circulating in the media. Due to the new virus mutation, the situation is up in the air. According to ORF, the lockdown may be extended. A meeting between state representatives, social partners, and numerous health experts to discuss the reopening plans is scheduled for tonight.
    • According to the Austrian daily magazine Die Presse, retail stores seem to be the most likely to reopen. FFP2 masks will be required and a bigger “baby elephant” (at least 2 meters between customers) must be maintained.
    • According to an ORF, restaurants may not reopen.
    • Schools may gradually resume in-person instruction starting Jan. 25.
    • It looks like ski lifts will remain open, but hotels will remain shut.
  • Austrian ministries reported 1,528 new infections in the last 24 hours.
    • The 7-day incidence is currently 137 per 100,000.
    • The R-value has fallen under 1. On average, an infected person spreads the virus to 0.94 others.
Active casesHospitalizedIn intensive care (ICU)Deaths
Total18,5872,0423376,987
Daily change-821-44-24+66
In percent-4.2%-2.1%-6.6%+1%
Daily Tests*RecoveredTested Positive
Total22,544365,214390,788
Daily change-2,742+2,283+1,528
In percent-10.8%+0.6%+0.4%

*daily tests refers to reported PCR tests, rapid antigen tests are not included
People Vaccinated*
Total84,380
Daily changen.a.
Percentage of population0.95%
*people who received at least one dose of the vaccine

Source: Austrian Ministry of Health, January 15, 2021.

  • According to Health Minister Rudolf Anschober, more and more cases of the British virus mutation B.1.1.7 are being identified in Austria. Currently, experts speculate that there are 70 to 100 infections.
    • Microbiologist Andreas Bergthaler from the Research Center for Molecular Medicine in Vienna said, “It wouldn’t be surprising if the the variant B.1.1.7 was already spread on a large-scale in Austria.”
    • If we assume that the mutation is 50 percent more contagious and extrapolate that, then, after a month, the number of cases would increase eightfold, said Bergthaler.
    • Anschober stressed that the number of cases infected with the variant must be identified as soon as possible.
    • Step-by-step all positive test results will be examined for the mutation, said Anschober. More laboratories will be needed for that.
    • The steps for reopening the country after Jan. 24 remain very uncertain. According to the minister, the situation is “alarming” and “very serious.”
    • All EU government seem to be “very alarmed,” about the mutation. For example, Slovakia estimates that 15% of its cases can be traced to the new sequence.
  • Following yesterday’s ruling by the Austrian Parliament, certain professional groups that have face-to-face customer contact and cannot maintain social distance will be subject to regular corona tests following the end of the current lockdown. Those who don’t want to get tested, must wear FFP2 masks.
    • For example, the Austrian railway service ÖBB will provide their employees with passenger contact with FFP2 masks.
    • Both tests and potentially also COVID vaccine can be carried out by company doctors during work hours.
    • The retail sector is reportedly also preparing to give its employees FFP2 masks.
    • According to the ruling, the test and mask requirement is mandatory for healthcare workers, teachers, kindergarten teachers, and providers of bodily-close services such as employees in hair salons, restaurants fitness studios, and transport companies.
    • The option to wear a FFP2 mask is not valid for employees in elderly, disabled, and care homes.
  • As of today, everyone entering Austria must register online in advance. This also applies to Austrians.
    • The current quarantine obligation remains in force until further notice, “testing oneself free” (“Freitesten”) is possible after 5 days at the earliest.
    • Exceptions to quarantine and registration requirements apply to commuters, transients and persons entering the country for urgent family matters that cannot be postponed.
    • The only countries exempt from the quarantine obligation, but not from the registration requirement, are:
      • Australia
      • Finland
      • Greece
      • Iceland
      • Japan
      • New Zealand
      • Norway
      • Singapore
      • South Korea
      • Vatican
    • When registering online, you must enter your name, date of birth, contact details and the countries you have visited in the 10 days prior to your trip.
    • The data of the online registration is automatically forwarded to the district administrative authority responsible for the place of stay in Austria.
    • This is intended to facilitate quarantine control and contact tracing. The data will be deleted 28 days after entry.
    • In case of a control, the confirmation of the registration has to be presented electronically or printed out.
  • Interior Minister Karl Nehammer announced increased police presence for the anti-corona protests planned for this weekend. Up to 30,000 people are expected to attend.
    • Several “radical groups,” including left- and right-wing extremists, have called its followers to take the streets.
    • Their encounter holds a “potential for conflict that should not be underestimated,” said Nehammer.
    • The minister stated that a disregard of the mask requirement and lack of social distance will not be tolerated and will be reported.
  • Health Minister Rudolf Anschober announced that “about 600,000 people” in Austria would receive the COVID-19 vaccine in the first quarter of 2021.
    • So far, the country has received 180,000 doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer and 10,000 doses of the Moderna vaccines. Until the end of the quarter, 1.2 million doses of both should be delivered to Austria.
    • Additionally, a “high number of orders” were placed for the not yet approved AstraZeneca vaccine, said Anschober.
    • Starting the second quarter, the minister expects a “massive increase in deliveries,” since Austria ordered 3.8 million additional doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine.
    • Anschober stressed that the vaccine is the “real key for the turn of the crisis.”
    • As of yesterday night, 74,000 Austrian residents have been inoculated.
  • Although the federal government is set to move forward with reopening, the corona traffic light commission has decided to keep the entire country a red zone.
    • Although eight districts have fulfilled the necessary criteria, committee members refuse to switch the light to orange, citing the uncertainty due to the new virus mutation.
    • The commission also indicated that the past few weeks do not indicate a sustainable positive development of the pandemic.
  • In discussing the possibility of a gradual reopening of the country, the president of the Austrian Society of Anesthesiology, Resuscitation and Intensive Care Medicine (ÖGARI) Klaus Markstaller warned people to be careful.
    • “In the interest of the patients you have to remain on the careful side,” said the doctor.
    • He stressed that “whenever necessary, we must be in the position to re-implement measures early enough to deter a further spread.”
    • Markstaller emphasized that Austria is currently in a “critical phase,” as the infection rate remains high.
    • Since he assumes that the vaccine campaign will be conducted more slowly that the virus mutation spreads, Markstaller fears an increase in hospital and ICU patients. Therefore, he says it is presently “very hard to give a good prognosis.”
  • Experts speculate that traces of the British virus mutation could be present in Vienna’s sewage system. This claim has yet to be confirmed, but it could potentially mean that 2% of Viennese sick with COVID-19 are infected with the mutation.
    • The city’s waterways is being examined as part of a project by the Technical University of Vienna (TU Vienna) in cooperation with AGES, which began in March.
    • The first findings are “not evidence” but “more or less a strong hint,” said Norbert Kreuzinger from TU Vienna. The final results will be presented next Tuesday.
    • According to the WHO, 50 countries currently house the British mutation. Recently, the number of speculated cases have also increased in Austria, with 42 detected at an elderly home in Vienna.
  • Starting Monday, kindergarten instructions will get tested weekly using self-tests. The first corona gurgle tests will be delivered to Viennese schools on the same day.
    • Once tests are complete, a delivery service will pick up the samples and bring them to a laboratory for examination.
    • Participation in the kindergarten testing program is voluntary.
  • In an ORF interview, the Federal Rescue Commander of the Red Cross Gerry Foitik emphasized the need adopt more discipline to reduce the number of new infections in Vienna.
    • Foitik aims to reduce the 7-day incidence of new infections to 25. He believe this is the only way to win the race against the mutated virus by summer. The current value in the city is 125.
    • He pressed for measures to minimize the daily number of new infections.
      • Reducing face-to-face contacts as much as possible.
      • People should only meet under strict protective measures.
      • Tests should be conducted at home every three days.
      • More distance should be kept from others.
  • Due to huge pandemic-induced economic losses, the Austrian crystal king Swarovski is forced to drastically cut back on expenses.
    • The company will permanently shut 33 of its 102 Austrian shops and 750 of its 3,000 stores located worldwide.
    • In June, Swarovski had already announced that it would lay off 1,000 of its employees. 600 more will be fired by 2022.

News from Elsewhere

  • Spain has recorded a new all-time-high in new infections. For the first time since the start of the pandemic, local authorities reported 40,000 new cases within one day.
    • In response, Madrid is extending its nightly curfew to begin at 23:00, instead of midnight, starting Monday. Cafes, bars, and restaurants in the entire region will need to shut at 22:00.
      • These new measures will be valid for the next two weeks.
    • Additionally, more and more people will not be allowed to leave the closed -off region Madrid.
    • In total, almost
  • Pfizer announced that it will produce more doses of its vaccine, but will reduce deliveries.
    • The American pharmaceutical company will expand its production facilities, which will temporarily lead to a decrease in deliveries.
    • This will affect the deliveries scheduled between the end of January and the beginning of February. More vaccine doses are expected to be available at the end of February and March.
    • “The temporary reduction will affect all European countries,” according to a statement by Norwegian health authorities. It is unclear how long it will take for Pfizer to reach maximum production capacity.
  • India will initiate its nation-wide vaccine campaign tomorrow.
    • The country’s 30 million healthcare workers will be the first to receive the vaccine, followed by about 270 million people above the age of 50, as well as citizens under 50 with pre-conditions.
    • India is home to the Serum Institution, the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world. According to the British news agency BBC, the company is set to produce between 60 and 70 million vaccine doses per month.
    • 300 million US dollars are being invested in the business to keep the production at a high rate.
    • Residents will receive the cheap AstraZeneca vaccine, which is known as Covishield in the country. Additionally, India will inoculate its population with the local Covaxin vaccine produced by the company Bharat Biotech.
  • The WHO criticized that 95% of all vaccines were given only in ten countries. The organization stressed that all states that are able to do so, should speed up the inoculation process.
    • The ten countries include Germany, Israel, Italy, Spain, the UK, the US, China, and Russia.
  • According to a report by the German tabloid Bild, Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to implement a harder nation lockdown faster.
    • Merkel reportedly wants to meet with federal minister presidents before Jan. 25 to discuss stricter corona measures.
    • Fear of a rapid spread of the highly contagious virus mutation is the reason for the pressure to tighten restrictions in the country.
    • A extension of the present lockdown seems likely. Early this week, Merkel herself claimed that the country is facing a “hard eight to ten weeks.”
  • Sweden has officially surpassed 10,000 COVID deaths. Yesterday, national authorities reported a peak of 351 deaths, bringing the total to 10,185.
    • Sweden is currently one of the countries in Europe strongest affected by the virus.
    • On average, the country is presently recording 100 deaths daily, which is much more than during the first corona wave in the spring.
    • In contrast, the number of new infections remains constant. Yesterday, the authorities reported 6,580 new infections in the last 24 hours.
  • To resurrect the US economy, President-Elect Joe Biden has announced a 1.9 trillion dollar (1.56 trillion Euro) corona aid package. This includes an increase in direct payments to US citizens, funding for cities and federal states, as well as a “national vaccine program.”
    • The plan includes 1,400 dollar direct payments to individuals. 350 trillion dollars will be given to cities and states. The additional unemployment insurance will be increased from the current 300 to 400 dollars per week, and it will be extended to September.
    • 415 billion dollars will be used to battle the virus, of which 20 billion goes to a vaccine campaign.
    • 440 billion dollars will be awarded to small businesses and communities that have been especially affected by the pandemic.

Go to the next page for news from January 14.

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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.