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.

January 29

News From Austria

  • The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has officially authorized AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine for use on all individuals above age 18.
  • According to a global study, the corona vaccine developed by the American pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson is 66% effective. In a different study conducted in the US, the vaccine was found to be 72% effective, said the drug maker.
    • The study focused on medium to severe symptoms. The vaccine was 86% effective in stopping severe illness and hospital admissions.
    • The study included 44,000 participants located on three different continents.
    • Unlike the other COVID vaccines on the market, only one doses of the Johnson & Johnson inoculation is needed for immunization.
    • Johnson & Johnson announced that it will apply for emergency authorization in the US at the beginning of next month.
  • The federal government is expected to make a decision about a possible extension of the national lockdown on Monday. The federal government will meet with the state leaders and experts at noon on Feb. 1.
  • The number of deaths caused by COVID-19 could be higher than previously assumed. According to statistics, 8,400 more people died in Austria last year than in normal years. However, “only” roughly 6,500 corona deaths were recorded.
    • State statistician Ramon Bauer warned that the pandemic triggered a high “Excess mortality” and a decrease in life expectancy by half a year in the country.
    • The data from the Vienna State Statistics also suggests that a large portion of the additional deaths in the previous year relate to COVID-19.
    • However, there could be a “slight under-reporting” of the official COVID deaths, as the total increase in deaths goes beyond the number of officially registered corona deaths.
  • The Viennese police has banned 15 of the 17 protests planned for this weekend, due to the “continued spread of the virus.”
  • Austria will further restrict entry regulations starting next week. According to APA, all traveler, including commuters, must provide a negative corona test that is no older than 72 hours.
    • Alternatively, travelers must self-isolate for 10 days. Individuals may exit quarantine once they have tested negative.
  • For the first in decades, Austria did not experience a flu season. The corona safety measures also seem to “prevent the flu and other pathogens that cause flu-like infections,” said Health Minister Rudolf Anschober.
    • Normally, the flu season would be in full swing by February.
  • Tomorrow the City of Vienna will open its fifth testing street in the Anton-Baumgartner-Straße in the 23rd district.
  • Austrian ministries reported 1,500 new infections in the last 24 hours.
    • The 7-day-incidence in the country has again dropped slightly to 106 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
    • More than 200,000 people across the country have so far received their first vaccine jab.
Active casesHospitalizedIn intensive care (ICU)Deaths
Total14,5961,7472987,658
Daily change-240-440+51
In percent-1.6%-2.5%+/- 0%+0.7%
Daily Tests*RecoveredTested Positive
Total20,532389,476411,730
Daily change-10,369+1,689+1,500
In percent-33.6%+0.4%+0.4%

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

People Vaccinated*
Total212,450
Daily change+4,006
In percent+1.9%
Percentage of population2.39%

*people who received at least one dose of the vaccine; Jan. 29, 2021.

Source: Austrian Ministry of Health, January 29, 2021.

  • Security personnel will support employees in conducting COVID controls (ensuring that everyone maintains the necessary coronavirus measures) in Viennese care and elderly facilities.
  • The Corona-Ampelkommission (coronavirus traffic light warning commission) has decided that all of Austria’s regions will remain red for the time being. According to the commission, there is no reliable evidence on the extent to which the virus mutations have spread in the country.
    • Due to the pace at which the variants are spreading both globally and in Austria, the commission expects that these forms of the virus will increasingly dominate the case count.
    • However, the commission confirmed that the 7-day incidence is below 100 in several districts.
  • Of 2,296 test samples examined by a Tyrolean laboratory, 186 are suspected to contain the UK variant. AGES confirmed two cases of the mutant so far.
    • Similarly, suspected cases of the highly contagious strain popped up in two kindergartens in the Salzburg ski towns Flachau and Pongau, which have recently become host to a large coronavirus cluster.
      • The children attending the facilities and their parents are now being tested.
  • According to a study conducted by the Vienna Institute of Demography (ÖAW), Austria is far from reaching herd immunity.
    • Two researchers have designed a model that estimates the number of unreported infections and thus also shows how many cases have gone undetected during testing.
    • According to AGES data from Jan. 19, roughly 7% of the Austrian population have been infected with the virus. A maximum of 60% of the infections were recorded by the authorities, so the tests seem not to have been effective enough.
    • This is bad news for the controlled approach to reaching herd immunity, for which 60-70% of the population must be immunized or vaccinated, according to Anthony Fauci.
    • But Austria is no exception, the number of unreported cases is relatively low in other countries as well.
    • In summary, the study found that following the track of natural immunization, herd immunity cannot be achieved in a responsible time frame.
    • From a political standpoint, it is therefore “unsuitable.” This means: “The virus cannot be controlled without social distancing and wearing masks,” said researcher Miguel Sánchez-Romero.

News From Elsewhere

  • EU member states have agreed upon stricter travel regulations. Travelers coming from regions with more than 500 COVID cases per 100,000 people within the past two weeks or a large spread of the new virus mutations must get tested before departure and isolate upon arrival.
    • Such high-risk areas will be classified as dark red on the EU Health Agency ECDC’s existing corona traffic light map.
  • The EU will monitor and limit the exports of COVID vaccines more closely. All pharmaceutical companies that have signed contracts with the bloc must from now on register a delivery to a so-called third state.
  • The EU Commission has published its contract with AstraZeneca. Read it here.
    • The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is expected to evaluate the company’s vaccine today.
  • Moderna will reportedly also deliver 20% fewer doses of its COVID vaccines than expected next month, said Federal Commissioner Domenico Arcuri.
  • Russia has offered the European Union 100 million doses of its “Sputnik V” Vaccine for the second quarter of 2021.
  • The BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine has not caused any deaths in Europe, said the European Medicines Agency (EMA) today. No other side effects were reported.
  • Israel data showed that just 317 of 715,425 people in Israel became infected more than one week after receiving two doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
    • Of those infected, 16 needed care in a hospital.
    • That strongly suggest that the vaccine is not only highly effective in preventing severe disease (which studies examined and showed) but also massively reduces the risk of infection – very good news indeed once vaccines will become more widespread.
  • The US pharma company Novavax reported a high efficacy of 89.3% of its vaccine candidate.
    • The vaccine was tested on both the “old” coronavirus variants (yielding 95.6% efficacy) and new variants such as the B.1.1.7 strain (yielding 85.6% efficacy).
    • However, the vaccine showed itself to be less effective against a new virus mutation first found in South Africa. Tests with 4,400 people there showed a success rate of 49.4%.
  • EU Council President Charles Michel has proposed emergency measures to accelerate Europe’s vaccine rollout. If the bloc cannot find a satisfactory solution with manufacturers, “we should examine all options and use all legal means and enforcement measures,” said Michel.
    • Specifically, Michel is considering invoking Article 122 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, with which the drug makers would be forced to share their patents or licenses with other manufacturers. These could then produce the vaccines instead.
    • This comes in response to the EU’s feud with AstraZeneca over unexpected delivery delays. While the European Medicines Agency is expected to authorize the company’s vaccine for individuals under age 65 today, it remains unclear when and how many of the vaccine doses will arrive in Europe.
  • The spread of the virus mutations is unsettling Europe. Last week, the EU announced stricter travel rules. However, many state leaders still do not believe these suffice. Now, the existing entry, test, and quarantine regulations are being tightened.
    • The bloc has imposed drastic restrictions on entry into the region from almost all countries since the start of the pandemic. The only exceptions include Australia, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand.
      • However, exceptions only apply to EU citizens and their families.
    • According to the EU Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson, all unnecessary trips should generally be avoided. The EU plans to implement mandatory quarantine and test rules for travelers from high-risk areas.
    • Despite new planned regulations, Johansson said that travel restrictions should not “hinder economic recovery and the imortance of a well-functioning health system.”
    • People should also have the opportunity to “meet their relatives”. Brussels advocates a “hard approach,” but it also has to be a “balanced approach,” said Johansson.
  • To speed up the vaccine campaign, the US federal government has authorized retired doctors and nurses to inoculate the population. The license is valid for all those have exited the labor force in the past five years.
    • All those who want to participate must take part in a CDC training course and will be supervised by a working colleague.
  • Brazilian researches have identified cases with two different coronavirus mutations – P.2 and B.1.1.28 – in the south of the country. These are reportedly the first people found to be infected with two different strains at the same time. So far, the patients are experiencing mild symptoms.
  • Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres has received the first dose of the COVID vaccine. The 71-year-old was inoculated in a school in the Bronx in New York City.

Go to the next page for news from January 28.

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.

Numbers

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

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.