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On Sunday, Metropole brings you a COVID-19 update from Prof. Dr. Florian Krammer, an Austrian virologist who works and teaches at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York City.

January 3, 2020

Here’s my weekly coronavirus update again. There have been 85 million official SARS-CoV-2 infections and 1,847 million official COVID-19 deaths to date. While the number of cases per day is only increasing slightly, we are unfortunately in a very bad position globally. For the first time, there were more than 15,000 deaths in a single day last week. More than 12 million people have been vaccinated globally so far.

Bad Direction in Europe

In Europe, unfortunately, cases are going up again in many countries (Great Britain, Spain, France, Italy, Czech Republic, etc.). In Germany, things are starting to look a little better in terms of new infections, but there, unfortunately, the number of deaths per day is now at a record level. In Austria, the case number continues to go down, also the number of deaths is slowly decreasing. However, the numbers are still skewed by the holidays. In the coming weeks, we will see what the situation really looks like.

Dire Situation in the Americas

The USA is unfortunately also setting new records. Last week, there was a day with more than 3,800 deaths. 0.1% of the US population has now died from COVID-19 (for comparison: about 0.04% of the German population, about 0.07% of the Austrian population, about 0.008% of the Norwegian population and 0.09% of the Swedish population have died from COVID-19 so far). In New York, the level of new cases and deaths is also high, but not at all comparable to the spring numbers (I would say about 20-25% of what we saw in the spring). Further south, unfortunately, the cases are rising again and almost everywhere in Latin America.

Stable Asia & Little Change in Africa

Asia looks better. South Korea seems to be getting everything under control again. Japan is still going up, but it also looks like the number of new cases are leveling off. Malaysia is going up quite a bit, Indonesia is also increasing. The rest of Asia is pretty much unchanged. The same goes for the Middle East (Israel is heading into a third wave there). A few African countries (Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Senegal, etc.) are also going up.

Vaccine Rollout

About the vaccinations: They started now in Austria, even if only with a few doses. The RNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) have meanwhile been administered to 4.2 million Americans, about 1 million Britons, about 1 million Israelis (more than 10% of the population – hats off! – they will soon have control of their country back), about 200,000 Germans, about 100,000 Canadians, etc. So far there have been a handful of allergic reactions (I know of 8), so you can say the vaccine maintains its pretty good safety profile.

Next week, the Moderna vaccine will probably be approved in the EU. It is almost identical to the Pfizer vaccine and works just as well, so I wouldn’t worry about getting the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, AstraZeneca’s vaccine has also now been approved in the UK. The vaccine is known to work, but it is unclear how well. Since the British authorities are much less transparent than the US authorities (who made all data public before approval), I can’t say what the data situation looks like at the moment. But I assume that the British authorities will release the data soon.

Until then, I recommend the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, if you can choose.

The Mutant Version

On virus variants: The data are thickening. It seems that the British variant is more infectious, but neither causes more severe diseases nor is it resistant to the vaccine. Despite the higher infectivity, the virus can of course be stopped with masks and distance just as well as the old variant. So, as I said, there is no need to panic here. There are other variants (for example, a South African one) that need to be looked at, but there, too, the first thing to do is to look at the data before getting overly worried.

There is nothing more to say this week. I will be vaccinated on Wednesday (finally!!!). I will tell you then how it was.

Best regards and Happy New Year!

Prof. Dr. Florian Krammer
Prof. Krammer is the Principal Investigator of the Sinai-Emory Multi-Institutional Collaborative Influenza Vaccine Innovation Center (SEM-CIVIC). Currently Prof. Krammer holds a position as a Professor of Vaccinology at the Department of Microbiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. He has published more than 100 papers, is member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Virology, Plos One and Heliyon and is a peer reviewer for more than 30 journals.

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.