This article is updated on an ongoing basis.
6. August 2020
In late 2019, the first cases of an unknown disease (soon to be called Corona) appeared in Wuhan, China. The rapid spread of the disease, which caused severe symptoms and deaths in some infected people, quickly led to hospital overload.
This disease spread at lightning speed across all continents from the beginning of 2020 and was declared a pandemic (mass disease with worldwide spread) by the WHO (World Health Organisation). In response, many governments imposed so-called lockdowns on their citizens to slow the spread of the virus, also here in Austria. From 17 March onwards, residents had to stay at home and only leave the house for the most necessary purposes such as buying groceries, going to the doctor, etc. Shops (except for supermarkets, pharmacies), hairdressers, restaurants, bars, concert events, cinemas, theatres… were closed. Office workers worked from home.
Here in Austria we got off lightly – at least for the time being. Even in April (the month with the most illnesses, host hospitalisations and deaths), hospitals were never overloaded. In other countries, unfortunately, it was sometimes much worse and many people became seriously ill or even died.
After Easter, starting on 14 April, the first – smaller – shops were allowed to reopen. Since then, many restrictions have been eased or lifted, but as the disease has only been contained and has not disappeared, all people should continue to observe reinforced hygiene measures: frequent hand-watching, keeping at least 1m distance from others and wearing a mouth-nose protection as often as possible (is mandatory in some places).
The whole world is hoping for the development of an effective vaccine. Several projects have been started and some are already in the trial phase. But even if we succeed in effectively combating the disease through vaccination, it will remain with us.
3. January 2021
The rules were relaxed over the summer, tourism and travel were allowed again. As a result, the number of infections rose again, and from September onwards the curve went up sharply.
The Corona traffic light was started at the beginning of September, and because of the strong increase in the number of infections, the anti-corona measures were also successively tightened again.
In October and November, infection and death rates reached worrying levels.
This led to a soft and then a hard lockdown in November. The lockdown ended on 6 December, despite the still high number of infections.
19 January 2021
Shortly after Christmas – as was to be expected – Austria had to undergo another hard lockdown, which is still in place at the moment (19.01.2021). Despite the strict rules, the number of infections and daily deaths is only slowly decreasing.
After all, the government has now set a target of a 7-day incidence of +- 50 in the light of the spread of a much more infectious variant of the virus.
For the time being, the lockdown is extended until 7 February. As of 25 January, FFP2 masks must be worn in public transport, supermarkets, post offices & pharmacies, and the minimum distance (which people who do not live in the same household must keep) has been raised to 2m.
But there is hope: since the end of last year, the vaccine produced by Pfizer/BioNTech has been the first approved. Unfortunately, the vaccine is in short supply until probably the beginning of April, so that no large population groups can be immunised until then.
The first to be vaccinated are residents of nursing and retirement homes, their staff, high-risk patients, hospital staff and medical personnel in private practice.
Next in line are older people who do not live in retirement or nursing homes, at-risk patents and employees of critical infrastructure companies (food producers, transport, telecommunications, banks, energy suppliers, media…).
Only then will all the others (who want it) be vaccinated. This will not be before
April June1, as sufficient quantities of vaccine are not available before then.
1 Due to the shortage of vaccines this date had to be postponed.
21 March 2021
Although the lockdown has been in place in many fields since Christmas and the test capacities have been increased enormously, we are already in the third Corona wave. Especially in the eastern part of Austria, the situation is getting worse. In the whole of Austria we have incidences of more than 200, in some areas even more than 400.
23 April 2021
After Easter, three provinces – Burgenland, Lower Austria and Vienna – again went into a so-called “hard” lockdown. The capacities in the intensive care units in these provinces were exceeded, i.e. more patients were treated than actually possible. This means that fewer staff have to look after more patients or, in some cases, staff not trained for intensive care have to be deployed.
Unfortunately, the government’s strategy has changed from containment to mitigation. In January, an incidence of 50 was set as the threshold target, then in February, an incidence of 200 was said to be the critical level. In view of the British mutation that is now widespread throughout the country (which is more and longer contagious and unfortunately also dangerous for younger people) and a new, rapidly spreading “Austrian” one in Tyrol (E484K), I find this questionable. The latter variant is probably an escape mutation, i.e. that it can possibly make immunity acquired through infection or vaccination ineffective (see Brazil and India).
In addition, it is becoming increasingly clear that many patients (even those who have gone through the infection with no or only mild symptoms) suffer from long (post-) covid after the acute phase, and this can even lead to deaths.
But what is happening now? The Corona crisis staff decides on extensive openings (schools, gastronomy, accommodation, culture) for mid-May. Again, without making these opening steps dependent on concrete infection figures or the number of vaccinated persons.
- Austrian Ministry for Health and Social Affairs: https://www.sozialministerium.at/en/Coronavirus/New-coronavirus-(COVID-19).html
- WHO: https://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/health-emergencies/coronavirus-covid-19
- Wikipedia (Corona pandemic): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COVID-19_pandemic