CoV on Feb. 7-14 | No Further Opening Steps Expected

The coronavirus is shaping our lives. Here’s what happened concerning COVID-19 in Austria in the week from Feb. 7-14.

February 12

News From Austria

  • Germany’s entry ban for Tyrol also applies to commuters. Starting Sunday, Tyroleans that work in German can no longer cross the border to German.
  • The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has begun reviewing the Curevac COVID-19 vaccine. The decision is based on the preliminary results of laboratory tests and clinical studies.
    • According to the EMA, the vaccine stimulates the production of antibodies against the coronavirus.
    • The authority evaluates the data according to the so-called rolling review process.
    • Data and results are continuously checked, even if the test series has not yet been completed and no application for approval in the EU has been submitted.
    • The procedure is faster than conventional tests, but is conducted as carefully as with others.
    • It is unclear how long the examination will take. However, as soon as there is enough evidence that the vaccine is effective, the manufacturer can apply for marketing authorization in the EU.
  • 219 cases of the South African B.1.351 virus mutation have been confirmed in Tyrol. There are 213 more suspected cases.
    • Over 60% of the confirmed and suspected cases come from the Schwaz district, 20% in the Kufstein district, and 11% in the Innsbruck-Land district. Around 4% of the cases were recorded in Innsbruck and just over 1% in the districts of Kitzbühel, Imst and Reutte and under 1% in the districts of Landeck and Lienz.
  • Authorities have again banned all the Viennese anti-CoV demonstrations and rallies planned for this weekend. Up to 2,000 people had registered for a rally on the Karslplatz and 1,500 more for one held at the Heldenplatz in the inner city.
    • A total of six rallies have been banned by the executive. Two others are still being examined.
  • At a press conference today, Health Minister Rudolf Anschober said that he is satisfied with the progress of the vaccination campaign, despite delivery and supply issues. He expects that two million vaccine doses will be administered by Easter.
    • During the summer, Austria should be able to offer a vaccination to anyone wants one, said Anschober.
    • According to the minister, the creation of an “e-vaccination passport” will be a “big step” and will make things easier with regard to vaccinations.
    • This passport will be needed when it comes to air travel, concert events or football games. In addition, it makes it easier to address risk groups or people who are skeptical about a vaccination.
  • At the same briefing, experts said that the general willingness to vaccinate has increased in Austria. While the proportion of vaccine enthusiasts has increased to 26%, the proportion of vaccination skeptics has fallen by almost half to 7%.
    • “That is good news,” says Markus Müller, director of the MedUni Vienna. The increased willingness to vaccinate is an “essential prerequisite for overcoming this pandemic.”
    • Nevertheless, there are still concerns about the vaccination, but in some cases completely different than at the beginning. For example, many worry that the AstraZeneca vaccine is not as effective as others.
    • Yet, Ursula Wiedermann-Schmidt, Professor of Vaccinology and Chair of the National Vaccination Committee, explained that it is not possible to compare the various vaccines for their effectiveness because there are no joint studies. It is clear that all vaccines protect against serious diseases.
    • The latest data also shows that, in addition to providing individual protection, it is highly that the inoculations prevent the transmission of an infection. This is an important factor, especially for health workers, because it stops them from infecting patients.
    • Wiedermann-Schmidt also urged people to get vaccinated with the existing vaccines instead of waiting until there are other vaccines – such as more mRNA vaccines.
    • Herwig Kollaritsch agrees that a reduction in effectiveness is not a loss of effectiveness.
    • Fortunately, the South African mutant is still underrepresented within the population, which is why it is important to get vaccinated to protect yourself against the existing variants.
    • It is conceivable “and also very likely” that a person who has been vaccinated once can also be refreshed with another vaccine that protects against another variant.
  • Austrian ministries reported 1,731 new infections in the past 24 hours.
    • The 7-day incidence value has increased to 105 per 100,000 residents.
Active casesHospitalizedIn intensive care (ICU)Deaths
Total14,2741,4312628,170
Daily change+428-80-3+32
In percent+3.1%-5.3%-1.1%+0.4%
Daily Tests*RecoveredTested Positive
Total46,981408,426430,870
Daily change-3,463+1,271+1,731
In percent-6.9%+0.3%+0.4%
*daily tests refers to reported PCR tests, rapid antigen tests are not included
Vaccine Jabs Given
Total405,355
Daily change+23,414
In percent+6.1%
Percentage of population4.55%

Source: Austrian Ministry of Health, February 12, 2021.

  • There is currently a big rush on 13 testing streets in Tyrol. The Tyrol rescue service says that expanding the test capacities with the existing resources is only possible to a limited extent.
  • Similarly, the demand for antigen tests in Vienna is skyrocketing since the introduction of the “entry tests” this week. The city is continuously expanding its test offer. The appointments are currently fully booked.
  • After her partner tested positive for the virus, Tourism Minister Elisabeth Köstinger is now self-isolating.
  • AstraZeneca wants to temporarily double the production of its COVID-19 vaccine. The Anglo-Swedish company plans to deliver more than 200 million vaccine doses per month by April, CEO Pascal Soriot announced yesterday.
    • AstraZenca reportedly also plans to roll out the next version of its vaccine in autumn, which is supposed to provide an even better protection against the virus mutations.
    • Clinical trials for this new version will begin in the spring. Mass production is expected to start in six to nine months.
  • Starting today, individuals leaving Tyrol must provide a negative test result that is no older than 48 hours. 1,200 police officers and soldiers will control the internal crossings to Vorarlberg and Tyrol, as well as the borders to Italy and Germany.
    • Children up to the age of ten, blue light organizations, freight traffic and transit passengers are exempt from the “exit tests.”
    • Transit confirmations will be issued for car passengers who want to travel through Tyrol. These documents must then be presented upon departure.
    • Commuters are not exempt from the regulation.
    • Self-tests are not permitted.
  • Yesterday, the German government classified Tyrol as a mutation area. Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has decided to impose border controls and entry bans for Tyrol and Czechia. This will go into effect on Sunday.
  • After Vienna, the coronavirus traffic light commission (Ampelkommission) has now set Upper Austria to orange. Austria as a whole remains red.
    • In 52 of 96 regions, the 7-day incidence is under 100 per 100,000 residents.
    • However, the commission warns that it is very likely that the British B.1.1.7 variant will continue to spread.
      • With a value of 128.8, Salzburg is still the most affected state, just ahead of Carinthia.
      • The Austrian average is 100.1 per 100,00 residents.
      • In the current weekly average, Tyrol has the lowest value with 80.2, followed by Upper Austria and Vienna.
    • Experts fear that the mutation will emerge as the dominant variant during February and quickly lead to an increase in the number of infections.
    • The commission also recommends taking the necessary measures to contain the spread of variant B.1.351, which was first detected in South Africa.
    • The traffic light switching is always based on the long-term trend.
    • At the moment, paradoxically, Tyrol, the hotspot of the probably more contagious South African strain, would be one of the weekly winners with falling number of cases.
      • According to the commission, the case incidence per 100,000 inhabitants fell by almost 18% in the past week.
      • If you take the 14-day incidence, Tyrol is only behind Salzburg with -15%.
  • The registration system for the CoV vaccination for people over 80 has caused much criticism in Lower Austria. This also reached patient advocate Gerald Bachinger. He has now turned to the political authorities to discuss changes.

News From Elsewhere

  • A new, severe virus mutation has been discovered in Brazil. The new strain is likely to be three times more contagious than the original virus, said Brazil’s Minister of Health Eduardo Pazuello yesterday.
    • Despite the high risk of infection, the minister assured: “Thank God the analysis has shown that the vaccines are also effective against this variant.”
    • However, the Ministry of Health has not yet provided any data from this analysis. 
  • San Marino plans to get the Russian “Sputnik V” vaccine. This still needs to be confirmed by the national parliament.
  • According to a reported by The New York Times, former President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 infection was more serious than the White House had admitted at the time.
    • Citing four anonymous sources, the Times stated that Trump’s blood oxygen levels had dropped to critical levels before he was transferred to the military hospital at the beginning of October.
    • Trump also showed signs of a lung problem related to pneumonia, caused by the virus.
    • Officials feared that he needed to be placed on a ventilator.
  • The United States has launched its COVID-19 vaccine program at pharmacies. Yesterday, vaccine doses were sent to 6,500 pharmacies across the nation. Several large pharmacies and drugstore chains will begin inoculating individuals today.
    • Vaccinations are to be offered at 40,000 pharmacies.
    • At least 33.7 million people in the United States have now received one or two doses of the vaccine. This is around ten percent of the population.
    • In view of the increased spread of the virus mutations, the Biden administration wants to accelerate the vaccination rate.
  • Slovenia will ease restrictions next week. Starting Monday, up to ten people can meet, and the ban on movement between communities will be lifted.
    • Schools will reopen for all pupils. High school seniors will also be resuming in-person instruction.
    • Shops and stores will also reopen.

Go to the next page for news from February 11.

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.