CoV on December 18 | Hard Lockdown From Dec. 26 – Jan. 17

The coronavirus is shaping our lives. Here’s everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Austria on December 18, 2020 – updated regularly.

Reporting on the coronavirus in Vienna and Austria is brought to you by Benjamin Wolf, Amina Frassl & Daniel El-Sabeh.

Find here the daily coronavirus updates for Austria, with everything you need to know about COVID-19.

Here’s how Austria will open up after the second lockdown.

Here is a wrap-up of the measures currently in place in Austria.

December 18, 2020

Government Press Conference

  • The government press conference is currently taking place.
    • Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) said that measures will again become stricter after Christmas until the 7-day-incidence is below 100 (it currently stands at 198).
    • Retail and services will close again on December 26.
    • All schools will switch to distance learning from January 7-15.
    • Stay-at home orders will be in place the entire day over several weeks. People are called to only leave the house for one of four reasons:
      • Work and professional reasons.
      • Buying essentials (food etc…).
      • Helping others.
      • And for mental relaxation and sports alone.
    • On the weekend of January 16-17, there will be free mass tests for everyone who wants to take part.
    • On January 18, certain stores, services, cultural institutions and potentially even restaurants and hotels will reopen – but only for those who can show a negative test result.
    • For all others who are not willing to get tested, the stay-at home orders and curfew will be valid at least until January 24.
    • Kurz also announced regular testing for large population groups and the public. Only regular testing can make reopening sustainable.
    • On December 27, vaccinations will start across Europe and in Austria. With every week, we get a step closer to ending this pandemic, Kurz said.
    • Kurz emphasized that cultural events, holidays or even going to the restaurants will not be possible without testing on a massive scale over the coming months.
    • The chancellor also showed himself hopeful that rapid antigen tests at home will also help bringing the virus under control later in the spring.
    • Kurz called “as many people as possible in this country” to keep showing solidarity and follow the rules.
    • The contact frequency of professional groups is decisive for test intervals.
    • One can also go to work untested but must wear an ffp2 mask.
    • Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz: “There are no exceptions for New Year’s Eve, Christmas is already epidemiologically questionable”. Fireworks and a party are not permitted.
    • Health Minister Anschober: “There is no proper immunization through pre-exposure to CoV so recovered persons have to get tested”.
    • Lockdown exit restrictions are still in force from 20:00-06:00 even if one carries a negative test result.
    • In the entirety of Austria, provinces and the armed forces are establishing area-wide and permanent infrastructure for free testing, making future undertakings (e.g. vacations, concerts etc…) possible for citizens.
    • Specialized pharmacies and physicians also offer possibilities for getting tested (a majority charges a fee).
  • Vice-chancellor Werner Kogler (Greens) greeted “all people living in our country” and said that the government has agreed on a strategy together with the heads of the federal states.
    • Kogler stressed that we cannot “overburden our intensive care capacities” and that measures have to be taken to ensure that this won’t be happening.
    • The special rules for the two days of Christmas (Dec. 24-25) are a reflection of the importance of these days for people, the restrictions afterwards necessary to lower the case numbers.
    • Kogler said that it is absolutely necessary to “lower the number of infections” so that we can get back to actually tracking and tracing cases and have regional differentiation in measures.
    • Mass tests in regions and in certain district will be an important tool for keeping numbers low after a phased reopening in January.
    • Testing, contact tracing, quarantine will all be essential and Kogler underlined that all federal states and regional authorities as well as the Bundesheer (federal army) are ready to take on this responsibility going forward.
    • Cultural institutions will reopen on January 18, but with substantial restrictions. A negative test result will be a condition for taking part in cultural events.
    • The number of participants for events indoors will be restricted to 500, outdoors to 700.
    • The night-time curfew (20:00-06:00) will stay in place after January 18 and cultural events in the evening will thus not be possible.
    • Kogler said it is “explicitly encouraged and intended” that people get the opportunity to do outdoor sports. Outdoor sports facilities will stay open, distance rules apply.
    • Cross-country skiing will be possible.
    • Normal skiing will be possible as well. Ski-lifts and gondolas will be allowed to open on December 24, but can only transport reduced number of people. The federal states will issue further details.
    • On January 18, certain sport events and sport indoors may be possible again with a negative test result.
    • With a view to the vaccine, Kogler saw us as a community “on the final kilometers of a long-distance run” and asked all people in Austria to help together to make these measures work.
  • Health Minister Rudolf Anschober (Greens) spoke of the “worst pandemic in 100 years” and how it has shaped this year all around the world.
    • Anschober recounted how the numbers exploded in late October and how the soft lockdown and the following hard lockdown were necessary to bring the situation under control.
    • The minister said that we managed to reduce the 7-day-incidence from “clearly above 500” to now “below 200,” but need to reduce the number further to below 100.
    • The reproduction factor (R) decreased from 1.41 before the lockdown to 0.88 now. The goal should be to get it below 0.8.
    • Anschober also said that doctors strongly advise that the number of people in intensive care units should be reduced by half, from around 500 to 250 or less.
    • Finally, the minister also spoke of the dramatic increase in mortalities in the last two months in Austria.
    • Anschober presented forecasts of the pandemic’s course:
      • With no further measures, we would have a stabilization of the cases on the currently high level. At the end of the month, new cases could range between 1,300 and 3,000 cases a day.
      • The Corona Commission met yesterday and was quoted by Anschober: “Over the Christmas holidays, more contacts and thus more new cases are to be expected. The work days between Christmas and the New Year would also see many more contacts than regular. The measures taken so far could reduce the case numbers, but further reductions cannot be expected based on the current measures. Thus, an increase of numbers can be expected and more preventive measures are strongly advised.”
      • The next steps now announced by the government are these further preventive measures to bridge the time to the vaccine that will be rolled out in the New Year.
  • Interior Minister Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) reiterated the new travel rules that will come into force tomorrow.
    • People entering Austria from abroad will have to enter a 10-day quarantine and can only “test themselves free” after 5 days (certain exceptions for essential workers and regular commuters apply).
    • Those entering the country need to have a “Quarantäneverpflichtungsformular” (a quarantine self-commitment form) which people are strongly advised to already bring with them when crossing the border.
    • There will be a “massive increase” in border controls for this purpose.
    • The police and soldiers of the Bundesheer (federal army) will control the borders. Nehammer called people to “go without traveling” if possible – entering the country will be possible, but hard and more arduous.
    • The information regarding entering the country will be available on the website of the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of the Interior and websites of the automotive clubs.
  • According to a report by Austrian daily Die Presse, a hard lockdown is planned after Christmas until Jan. 17.
    • The relaxations on Dec. 24 and 25 for the Christmas holidays would remain in place. On Dec. 26, however, the third hard lockdown begins.
    • Shops, services, recreational facilities, restaurants, bars and schools should all close in this period.
    • Tough stay-at-home orders and curfews during the period are also under discussion.
    • From Jan. 18, trade, schools and catering operators are to open again. According to APA, schools will start on Jan. 7 instead of Jan. 11, as usual, but in distance learning. 
    • Only individuals with negative test results will be allowed to enter stores and restaurants. Those who do not get tested will have to stay in home quarantine for another week
    • For all others, the curfews will continue to apply. Exit restrictions would apply around the clock.
    • The second round of mass testing may be postponed. It is expected to take place on Jan. 16 and 17.
    • The government will meet with the governors of federal states today at 15:00 for a video conference.
    • A press conference is planned for 18:00 to inform the public about the next steps.

News from Austria

  • Austrian ministries reported 2,085 new cases in the last 24 hours.
    • The 7-day-incidence fell to 198 per 100,000 inhabitants.

Cases Overview

Active casesHospitalizedIn intensive care (ICU)Deaths
Total32,3623,0734955,127
Daily change-1.169-147-35+145
in percent-3.5%-4.6%-6.6%+2.9%
Daily TestsRecoveredTested positive
Total31,414297,424334,913
Daily change+3,189+3,109+2,085
in percent+11.3%+1.1%+0.6%

Source: Austrian Ministry of Health, December 18, 2020.

  • All federal states now offer free rapid antigen tests or also PCR tests before Christmas and the holidays.
    • The test lanes are open from Monday at the latest – some with, some without registration.
    • All people who live or work in Vienna can come to the Austria Center Vienna and get tested for free.
    • The appointment for this is available either online or by phone via the health hotline 1450.
    • The state of Vorarlberg is offering free antigen tests on Dec. 23 and 24 for people without symptoms who want to visit relatives from a risk group.
    • From Dec. 26, a free antigen test lane will be set up permanently in Dornbirn.
    • On Sunday, the permanent and free antigen tests will start in Tyrol. Barely 24 hours after registration began, 13,200 people had registered. The tests will be carried out at 17 locations throughout Tyrol.
    • Upper Austria published the locations for free rapid antigen tests around Christmas on Friday, as announced.
    • From Monday until probably Jan. 6, this option will be available at 5 locations spread across the province for people without symptoms.
    • The state of Salzburg will offer free antigen rapid tests before and during the Christmas holidays. For this purpose, a total of 8 test locations will be open starting Monday. All Salzburgers can be tested there free of charge and without registration. This possibility is to be given for the time being up to and including Dec.  26.
    • In Styria, there is the possibility to get tested for free from Monday to Wednesday. The rapid tests are carried out in Bruck an der Mur, Liezen, Gleisdorf, Judenburg and Graz, as the provincial communication announced on Thursday.
    • From Monday to Wednesday, there is again the opportunity in Burgenland to undergo a free antigen rapid test. Testing will take place at 7 locations. Registration by telephone is necessary.
    • In Lower Austria, there will be opportunities to be tested for coronavirus at 5 locations on Monday and Tuesday.
    • In St. Pölten, Korneuburg, Wiener Neustadt, Amstetten and Zwettl there will be free antigen tests on those days.
    • Klagenfurt and Villach also offer free tests again. They will start on Monday. In a total of 8 Upper Carinthian communities, the CoV mass tests will be held on Saturday.
    • The inhabitants of Heiligenblut, Großkirchheim, Mörtschach, Winklern, Rangersdorf and Stall im Mölltal as well as Lesachtal and Kötschach-Mauthen can be tested at 5 stations, the state press service announced.
  • Rumor has it that a new lockdown is planned for the time after December 26.
    • The Austrian government announced a press conference on Friday, December 18, to explain the next steps and measures over the coming weeks.
  • The first vaccinations in the EU will take place on December 27. The EU states agreed on a common timetable to roll out the vaccine.
    • EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted about the agreement yesterday.
    • The vaccination start for Austria on December 27 was also confirmed by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP).
  • The exemption for high-risk groups of being obliged to be physically present at work will expire in January.
    • The measure gives 90,000 people belonging to at-risk groups the right to work from home.
    • The extensions was part of a larger package of laws on working rights and pensions which was rejected by the upper house of parliament, where the opposition still has a slim majority.
    • Advocates for risk groups see the rejection as accidental and call on the Social Ministry to issue a decree to bridge the period until the law can be passed again next year.
  • The Austrian Foreign Ministry has issued and renewed travel warnings for almost all countries around the world.
    • The only exceptions are: Australia, Finland, Ireland, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Uruguay and the Vatican.
  • Austria’s Corona-Ampel (traffic light warning system) will remain red for all federal states and districts.
    • This will be the seventh week in a row in which the entire country has been red.
  • A study on the diffusion of the coronavirus in Switzerland has shown that “the seroprevalence rate in children over the age of 6 (23%) is almost identical to that of the general population.”
    • That indicates that the role of children in spreading the virus is not necessarily smaller than those of other population groups, a point often contested in public debate.

On the next page, you find an overview of all measures currently in place in Austria.

Benjamin Wolf
Benjamin studied Journalism, History and International Affairs. After stints with Cafébabel in Paris and Arte in Strasbourg, he is now working as managing editor and COO for Metropole in Vienna. Fields of expertise are politics, economics, culture, and history. Photo: Visual Hub

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.

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