CoV on Jan. 24-31 | Federal Government to Decide Next Steps Tomorrow

The coronavirus is shaping our lives. Here’s everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Austria this week – updated regularly.

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 started on December 26 and will go through February 7, here are the rules of the lockdown in Austria in detail.

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 4, 2021

January 31

News From Austria

  • Tomorrow the federal government will meet with state governors and experts to decide the next steps for the national lockdown. Schools, retail stores, and hairdressers are the most likely to reopen. Experts remain apprehensive.
    • WKO boss Harald Mahrer warns that there will be mass bankruptcy among small businesses if the country doesn’t finally reopen.
    • President of the Austrian Trade Union Federation Wolfgang Katzian reports that workers are increasingly worried about money and that “many people are going crazy from being locked up for a long time.”
    • On the other hand, mathematicians and virologists say that the current number of infections is still too high. The daily case rate should drop to 700, the 7-day incidence to 50. Currently, the numbers are twice as high.
    • In addition, there are the virus mutations. While the UK strain is reportedly less contagious that originally feared (perhaps only 30% instead of 70%), it “is there, it is spreading and will prevail,” says mathematician Niki Popper.
    • However, Popper remains rather optimistic. “If the current measures are maintained, we won’t wake up in a few days and have 10,000 new infections per day,” says Popper.
    • If the government decides to reopen, “then it depends on how much we test, trace and isolate,” says the mathematician. In some federal states he sees a lack of understanding here.
  • The National Vaccination Board has recommended the AstraZeneca vaccine for individuals between ages 18 and 64.
    • There is too little evidence for the vaccine’s effectiveness on people above the age of 65.
    • However, if there are logistical problems and too little of the mRNA-based vaccines, the AstraZeneca vaccine may be given to older people as well.
  • AstraZeneca will, after all, deliver more vaccine doses than previously stated in the first quarter of the year. The drug maker will provide the EU with 9 million additional doses of its vaccine.
    • In total, the bloc will receive 40 of the initially promised 80 million vaccine doses from the Anglo-Swedish company.
  • This weekend, more than 3,000 doctors and healthcare employees received the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Vorarlberg. Additionally, all residents and employees in Vorarlberg nursing homes have been administered the first dose of the vaccine.
  • In an interview with the Austrian daily newspaper Kurier, Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler said that he believes amateur contact sports (like soccer) with “entry testing” will be possible starting in March.
    • Sporting assumes may resume once events are possible again. Players and spectators will be required to get tested before. 750 spectators will be allowed outdoors.
  • The willingness to vaccinate seems to be increasing among healthcare employees. A survey conducted by the SORA Institution found that 56% of those questioned want as many colleagues as possible to be vaccinated to protect themselves, patients, and nursing home residents.
    • Almost a quarter of the employees – exactly 24% – want to be vaccinated themselves.
    • The general willingness to vaccinate among employees in the healthcare sector is 51%.
  • The Pensioners Association of Austria (PVÖ) has concerns about the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, which will be discussed by the National Vaccination Board this evening.
    • “As is known, there are no reliable data on the effectiveness and tolerability of the AstraZeneca vaccine for people aged 65 and over,” noted PVÖ President Peter Kostelka.
    • In the Austrian tabloid Kronen Zeitung, Ingrid Korosec, head of the ÖVP Senior Citizens Association, urged the government to wait on the results of a large US study on AstraZeneca, which is expected to be released in February, and to allow people over 80 to only use the other available substances until then to vaccinate.
  • The police and the armed forces turn away travelers wishing to enter the country during border controls. According to the Tyrolean police, around 100 people are sent back every day.
  • Despite the ban on this weekend’s demonstrations in Vienna, up to 5,000 right-wing extremists “walked” along the Ring in the inner city.
    • At noon, a few hundred people gathered at the Maria Theresien Platz for a “walk” across the Ring to protest against the corona restrictions.
    • Many of the individuals were not wearing mask or observing social distance.
    • The mood was reportedly aggressive, the police closed off the Ring, and people were arrested.
  • Shortly before the meeting with the federal government, Mayor Michael Ludwig called for a partial reopening of retail stores and schools. But this requires “a clear framework of conditions.”
    • Ludwig believes the wearing of FFP2 masks, restrictions on the number of square meters per person, and staggered classrooms schedules in schools are necessary.
    • According to Ludwig, opening steps are only possible on the condition that the experts “do not submit other expertise” on Monday.
    • “In my opinion, the school is the area where you have to look the most,” said the Vienna city director with conviction. “It is important to ensure that the very little ones are given the opportunity to go to school again.”
Active casesHospitalizedIn intensive care (ICU)Deaths
Total14,1801,6762997,721
Daily change-249-6+3+18
In percent-1.7%-0.4%+1%+0.2%
Daily Tests*RecoveredTested Positive
Total26,071392,497414,398
Daily change-4,902+1,421+1,190
In percent-15.8%+0.4%+0.3%
*daily tests refers to reported PCR tests, rapid antigen tests are not included
People Vaccinated*
Total214,725
Daily change-415
In percent-0.2%
Percentage of population2.42%
*people who received at least one dose of the vaccine; Jan. 31, 2021.

Source: Austrian Ministry of Health, January 31, 2021.

  • Today, the Finance Ministry published its balance sheet for December. The coronavirus has reduced the budget by 22.5 billion euro.
    • In 2020, total revenue slumped by 8.4% compared to 2019, and spending rose by 22%.
    • Currently, 31 billion euros have been paid out in the form of COVID aid.
  • This weekend, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz offered help to Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, whose country has been especially hard-hit by the pandemic. The Federal Chancellery has announced that Austria will take in and treat Portuguese ICU patients. Details will follow.
    • Previously, Austria has accepted ICU patients from France, Italy, and Montenegro, said Kurz in a statement.
    • The situation in Portugal had recently deteriorated significantly. In just one day, 12,435 new infections and 293 deaths were recorded in the country.
      • According to the authorities, only seven intensive care beds are available across the country.
  • The Leoben public prosecutor has ordered the autopsy of 18 dead who died in a nursing home in St. Lorenzen, Upper Styria in the Mürz Valley.
  • A new study indicates that pregnant women pass COVID antibodies through the placenta to newborns. The baby may receive more of them if the mother has the virus early in her pregnancy.
  • The federal government will discuss the next steps on Monday. However, if things go as planned, shops and stores will reopen on Feb. 8 under strict measures.
    • “We would impose a 2-meter minimum distance – an elephant instead of a baby elephant – and 16 square meters per customer,” said the trade association. More FFP2 masks will be made available.
    • However, stores will need to be notified of the government’s decision at least one week in advance to prepare for the grand reopening.
    • The trade association assumes that consumers would come to exchange Christmas gifts and redeem goods vouchers and gifts of money. However, these catch-up effects would by far not offset the economic losses business incurred due to the national lockdown.
    • In addition, leaving restaurants closed would lead to a 250 million euros in sales losses per week, according to trade association chairman Rainer Will.
    • As previously reported, stores and shops are increasingly pushing for a reopening.
    • “With test strategies, keeping a distance and FFP2 masks, the way is paved for opening up,” said the commercial manager of the Vienna Chamber of Commerce, Margarete Gumprecht.
    • “Locking up every day brings enormous sales losses,” said the chairman of the federal trade division in the Austrian Chamber of Commerce (WKÖ), Rainer Trefelik.
      • At the same time, however, he called for greater access to CoV testing.
      • “In rural areas, in particular, there are still far too few test options.” The aim here is to make improvements as quickly as possible. “Our employees must be able to have themselves tested in a simple way or even be able to test them themselves, similar to what is intended for schoolchildren,” demanded Trefelik.
  • Federal states are hoping for a gradual reopening of the public life. Tyrolean Governor Günther Platter hopes that the government’s decision will be in favor of the population.
    • Vienna’s Mayor Michael Ludwig also spoke in favor of a cautious reopening with specific regulations, “especially for kindergartens and schools, but also for parts of the trade.”
    • “We need steps of openness and hope, especially in schools. Otherwise we are heading straight for a nationwide warehouse frenzy, ”warned Upper Austria’s governor Thomas Stelzer (ÖVP).
  • Austrian publications have released the first details about the government’s national reopening plans following the end of the lockdown on Feb. 7.
    • Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told the Kurier, “The mutations are preventing a complete loosening of restrictions. We will decide on the plan for the period after February 8th with the governors on Monday, taking into account the number of infections and the socio-economic situation. “
    • Health Minister Rudolf Anschober has promised “cautious reopenings.”
      • “Austria now needs a clear perspective. During this pas week, we have intensively monitored the risk and the dynamics of the new dangerous mutations of the virus – also with international cooperation. Continuing this analysis will also be this weekend’s focus. On Monday we will discuss again with the experts how we can reopen first areas very carefully and in a controlled manner without taking too high of a risk. With a wise and careful approach, we have to gain time so that the vaccinations can be implemented step by step in parallel. “
  • The National Vaccine Board will meet to assess which individuals will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine. Tomorrow, the federal government wants to discuss the expert’s recommendations with state governors to decide the country’s vaccination plan.
    • In Italy, the national medicines agency recommended the vaccine for adults up to the age of 55.
  • The corona ski instructor cluster in the Flachau (Pongau) in Salzburg has grown anew. Of 172 individuals, 90 have tested positive.

News From Elsewhere

  • The UK vaccinated 600,000 people today, bringing the number of people who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to nine million. 490,000 individuals have received the second dose as well.
  • To dissolve two banned anti-corona protests in Brussels, the Belgian police arrested 200 individuals. The police evacuated a location in front of the central train station, where most of the protesters had gathered.
    • The protestors included numerous soccer fans.
  • Thousands of ultra-orthodox Jews violated Israeli corona restrictions by attending a funeral in Jerusalem today. An influential rabbi, who had been infected with COVID-19, was being buried.
  • The 100-year old British record donor collector Tom Moore (Captain Tom) has fallen seriously ill with COVID-19, his daughter announced on Twitter. Moore was taken to the hospital with pneumonia and “needed extra help with breathing,” his daughter wrote.
    • Moore has raised almost 32.8 million British pounds (around 37 million euros) for the National Health Service (NHS) for COVID-19 last year with a donation run. Queen Elizabeth II then knighted him. In addition, the World War II veteran was promoted by the captain to honorary colonel.
  • Portugal has shut its borders to contain the pandemic. As of today, only those who have a good reason may enter and exit the country.
    • Exceptions apply to people who drive to work, return to their main residence or are on the road for work, for the transport of goods and for medical emergencies or humanitarian aid.
  • In response to international pressure, Israel has delivered 5,000 vaccine doses to medical personnel in the Gaza Strip and West Jordan, said a spokesperson from the Israeli Ministry of Defense.
  • Starting tomorrow, 11 of 20 Italian regions will loosen corona restrictions. Restaurants will reopen for day time, museums will be accessible again, and people will have more freedom to travel. This also applies to Lombardy, the region hardest hit by the epidemic. 
    • However, fitness centers, indoor swimming pools, theaters and cinemas will remain closed.
  • The mood in the European Union has been rather heated, ever since the vaccine manufacturers AstraZeneca and BioNTech/Pfizer announced delays of their respective vaccines. As a solution, international organizations such as the WHO, have suggested reconsidering vaccine patents.
    • States should require pharmaceutical companies to make their technology publicly available “so that many different manufacturers as possible around the world can start production,” Suerie Moon, co-director of the Global Health Center in Geneva told the German channel ARD.
    • Moon called for vaccines to be recognized as “global public goods” during the pandemic “so that everyone in the world benefits.”
    • A proposal by India and South Africa to suspend certain patents during the pandemic is also being discussed in the World Trade Organization (WTO). 
      • This is supported by organizations such as the UN Human Rights Commission, UNESCO, Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. They too demand open access to information and data.
  • After the EU backtracked its decision to impose controls on COVID vaccine exports to North Ireland, the UK government has promised to cooperate in the distribution of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
    • Minister of State Michael Gove said on Saturday that vaccinating one’s own population was a priority. “But we also want to work with our friends and neighbors in the European Union to help them too.”
    • The EU has realized that it made a mistake by triggering the emergency mechanism from the Brexit agreement, Gove said. It now needs a restart in the relationship.
  • Czechia has started conducting spot checks at its borders. Yesterday, the country imposed a strict entry ban for foreigners to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
    • The controls will be conducted randomly. No fixed check points are planned.
    • “We will want to know what the reasons for the trip are,” said the police spokesman. In any case, shopping trips are not allowed. 
    • But there are some exceptions, including business trips, essential family visits, funerals and visits to authorities that cannot be postponed, according to a government resolution.

Go to the next page for news from January 30.

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Amina Frassl
Amina is Metropole's online content manager. She writes about news and news analysis and is currently completing her studies in journalism and politics at NYU.

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.

Austria and Vienna have lifted most coronavirus restrictions in the summer.  

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.