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AUSTRIA

Today in Austria: A round-up of the latest news on Monday

Find out what's going on today in Austria with The Local's short roundup of the news.

Vaccines
AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP

Pandemic situation ‘getting worse’

Further tightening of containment measures is expected in the coming days in Austria, at least regionally, as the situation with the pandemic is getting worse and the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals’ intensive care units has increased, Die Presse newspaper reports.

Easter lockdown ‘will not be enough to contain pandemic’

The President of the Austrian Society for Anaesthesiology, Resuscitation and Intensive Care Medicine (ÖGARI) Walter Hasibeder has told the Ö1 morning journal radio programme he does not think the Easter lockdown in Eastern Austria will be sufficient to contain the virus.

He wants a 14-day lockdown and for the measures to be taken across Austria due to the intensive care bed situation the Der Standard newspaper reports. 

Two thirds of population to be vaccinated  by end of June

Health Minister Rudof Anschober has presented the vaccination plan for the second quarter, pledging to vaccinate two thirds of the population with at least one jab by the end of June.

Currently, an average of 33,446 vaccinations are carried out daily and 1.1 million people have received at least one vaccination dose, Der Standard newspaper reports. 

Exit tests for North Tyrol

People wishing to leave North Tyrol from Wednesday will have to show a recent negative PCR test, broadcaster ORF reports. The exit test requirements will initially be in place for two weeks for North Tyrol and within Tyrol for the Kufstein district.

The reason is an outbreak of the British coronavirus variant mutation with other mutation features (B.1.1.7 with E484K). It is feared the new variant will be more vaccine resistant.

East Tyrol is exempt from the exit test. According to AGES there are 103 such cases in the Schwaz district, 54 cases are known in the Kufstein district to date. 

New wave in autumn, virologist warns

The Austrian virologist Dorothee von Laer is already warning of a new wave of infections in autumn.

Although she expects a quiet summer, should vaccine resistant variants of the coronavirus prevail during this time, there could be another wave in autumn, von Laer on Sunday told the broadcaster ORF.

She said it was important to prepare for this and plan more vaccinations.

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COVID-19 RULES

Austria to drop all Covid restrictions by the end of June

Austria's government announced the country would be back to "normal operation" in July, including in the capital Vienna. Here's what this means.

Austria to drop all Covid restrictions by the end of June

On Wednesday, February 1st, Austria’s federal government announced it would end all Covid-19 crisis measures by the end of June.

In a press conference, Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) explained that vaccinations, tests and medications would be integrated into the regular structures of the national health system. 

There will be no more free tests, except for people with symptoms and patients at risk, and those will be carried out only by family doctors or in hospitals. However, vaccination will remain free of charge and available at various points, including at family doctor’s offices. 

“The virus is here to stay, and we are preparing to live with it in the long term,” Rauch said. 

All current measures will be dropped in phases, including mask requirements, obligation to report illness, and special rules for doctors and nursing homes, the minister said.

READ ALSO: Everything that changes about life in Austria in February 2023

Roadmap to end all restrictions

From May, there will be no mask requirement in hospitals, nursing homes, and doctor’s offices. However, people in risk groups will be able to take time off work if they feel they would not be adequately protected at the workplace (and working from home is not an option) – this will be valid until the end of April.

As of July, all other measures will end with the expiration of the Covid Measures Act. Covid-19 will no longer be a notifiable disease, so people who test positive won’t have to follow any particular protocol. Currently, they must adhere to certain restrictions for 10 days, depending on the province.

READ ALSO: What’s happening in Vienna in February 2023?

The Covid Measures Act also allowed provinces to opt for stricter measures if they deemed necessary. The Austrian capital Vienna famously adhered to stricter regulations and is the only province where there is still an FFP2 mask mandate in public transport. 

With the expiration of the Act, Vienna will no longer be allowed to impose specific regulations and the mask requirement will fall.

Monitoring and new Epidemics Act

Rauch said that, even after the end of the reporting obligation, Austria would continue to monitor the course of the pandemic – particularly with the analysis of PCR samples and evaluation of wastewater in specific treatment plants nationwide.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why are so many people falling ill in Austria right now?

Additionally, he said that the Ministry of Health is working on a fundamental revision of the Epidemics Act. The aim is to send a draft bill with a “pandemic plan” that will include detailed descriptions of how to deal with various pandemic phases by the end of the year. 

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