It had long been speculated about whether the Corona summit on Monday would bring easing or restrictions in Austria. After the deliberations, however, there were largely no concrete results.
This week there will be an “Eastern Summit” with the Ministry of Health and the federal states of Vienna, Lower Austria and Burgenland to discuss the situation and possible regional measures. In the other federal states, however, no further tightening or relaxation are planned. The turquoise-green federal government announced this in a press conference on Monday evening.
Agreement was also reached between the federal government and the federal states that in districts with an incidence – i.e. the sum of new infections in seven days per 100,000 inhabitants – of 400 tailor-made measures should be taken. In addition, not only the incidence but also the vaccination rate and the situation in the hospitals should be taken into account in the future. There should be openings where the situation in the intensive care units is stable, but not before Easter.
The self-tests should play a bigger role in the future: They should be able to be carried out at test stations under supervision. This should increase capacities and cope with the rush around Easter.
Opening steps were planned
Originally, the turquoise-green federal government had planned to open the outdoor catering from March 27th. Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) justified the lack of openings, for example in the guest gardens, with the fact that the experts had warned against this. The pilot test will only be continued in Vorarlberg.
Kurz assured that before the summer every willing Austrian would receive at least a first partial vaccination. In April the focus will be on the over-65s, in May on the over-50s, and from June it will be the turn of the younger generation.
Recently, the situation has developed very differently – especially in the eastern region, which the planned “Eastern Summit” is to deal with. The differences are shown by the figures from the Agency for Health and Food Security. In Vorarlberg the seven-day incidence is 67. In Salzburg (300) and Vienna (322) the incidence is almost five times higher.
Mobility and Mutations
The images are also contrary in the intensive care units. In Vienna, 162 Covid 19 sufferers had to receive intensive care on Monday, more than at the height of the second wave in autumn. Two infected people were in intensive care units in Vorarlberg. The mutations are considered to be one of the main reasons for the regional gap. The more contagious and probably more dangerous British variant B.1.1.7 is dominant in eastern Austria and Salzburg. In Burgenland their spread is already 95 percent, in Vorarlberg, on the other hand, only 33 percent of new infections are due to new variants.
On the other hand, the east-west divide also correlates with the European trend. The Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia suffer from high deaths and infections. Switzerland, on the other hand, recorded a low incidence, although the numbers there have recently increased again.
The mobility factor could be one of the reasons for regionally different developments, says hygiene specialist Hans-Peter Hutter from MedUni Vienna to the “Wiener Zeitung”. In addition to the spread of the variants and mobility, the number of tests carried out, socio-demographic factors or urban-rural differences could also play a role.
Criticism of the opposition
The opposition spoke out against the government’s strategy. FPÖ boss Norbert Hofer turned against a “permanent loop from lockdowns”. These would not be supported by the population. Nightspots and clubs shouldn’t be unlocked, but gastronomy, hotels and culture should be.
Neos party leader Beate Meinl-Reisinger complained that the government was not trying to “take people along” with the measures. If you lose the population, as is happening increasingly, “even the toughest measures will not help”.
SPÖ boss Pamela Rendi-Wagner rejected any relaxation due to the situation in the intensive care units: “That would be pouring oil on the fire.” The SPÖ-led Viennese provincial government, on the other hand, campaigned for the pub gardens to be opened. (dab)
Editor’s note: Article was updated at 6:25 PM.