The federal government under the leadership of the new Federal Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg wants to tighten the thumbscrews in view of the dramatic increase in corona infections. In an evening meeting in the Federal Chancellery, to which the governors were virtually connected, Schallenberg, Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler, Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein and Tourism Minister Elisabeth Köstinger presented a new five-step plan. The late start of the meeting is due to the Brussels EU summit, which the new Federal Chancellor attended for the first time. Whether also Schallenbergs Predecessor in office Sebastian Kurz, who declared the pandemic over in the summer and would have decided to take such drastic steps, remains open.
The current prognosis assumes a significant increase in the 7-day incidence, which will lead to a correspondingly higher utilization of intensive care beds. The bottom line is that the risk of reaching the capacity limit is there, even if it is not yet extremely high. On November 3rd, Lower Austria could exceed the threshold of 30 percent with a probability of 20 percent, Salzburg and Vorarlberg with a probability of 15 percent and Vienna with a probability of ten percent. From today’s perspective, this is less likely in all other federal states.
Lockdown for the unvaccinated
The five point plan sees one in the last category Lockdown for the unvaccinated before. requirement is, that more than 600 beds with Covid-infected people in the intensive care units are occupied. There are currently 224 people in intensive care units, the last time Austria’s health system was on 11. April exceeded the threshold of 600 Covid beds (611).
Specifically, it means for unvaccinated people that they have their private living area then only for work, daily needs, caring for relatives, visiting doctors or hospitals are allowed to leave. The ulterior motive is obvious: In this way, unvaccinated people are to be urged to be vaccinated; Austria, with a vaccination coverage rate of a little more than 60 percent, is in the lower midfield when it comes to the European average.
Level four only for unvaccinated people
What is new is that the third step is activated from 400 intensive care beds, the 2.5 G rule (vaccination, recovery or PCR test) then applies wherever 3G has previously been in force. Antigen tests are no longer allowed. The fourth level is activated from 500 beds, then only vaccinated or genesis patients have access.
As Federal Chancellor, I will not allow the health system to be overloaded because there are still too many hesitants and procrastinators who cannot bring themselves to be vaccinated.
Federal Chancellor Schallenberg
In an initial reaction, Schallenberg justified the tightening as follows: “We don’t see the pandemic in our rearview mirror yet. We are about to stumble into a pandemic of the unvaccinated. And that even though we have enough vaccine, a vaccine that is safe, works and is supposed to protect against serious illness. ”All unvaccinated people must be aware that their shoulders are not only responsible for their own health, but also for that of their fellow men. “As Federal Chancellor, I will not allow the health system to be overloaded because there are still too many hesitants and procrastinators who cannot bring themselves to be vaccinated. It is still up to us to prevent this – hence my urgent appeal: Get vaccinated! “
I believe it is necessary that we take forward-looking measures here – now.
Federal Chancellor Schallenberg
Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein adds: “We are all planning our coming weeks and months: family, holidays, school, Christmas holidays. The economy, especially tourism, is planning the winter season. My job as Minister of Health is to protect everyone who lives here and to make sure that the health system works and that you get the best care. But it is also my job to tell you very clearly what is in store for you. The new steps mainly affect people without vaccination protection. “
Intensive care beds with additional limits:
Critical voices too
According to reports, critical voices from the countries were also heard at the meeting. So, according to reports, urged the Styrian Governor Hermann Schützenhöfer (ÖVP) on the pace and made the federal government responsible, because it had declared the pandemic over before the summer. He wants to roll out 2G as quickly as possible and analogous to the rule that has long been in force in Vienna, an FFP2 mask requirement in all shops.
In the run-up to the meeting, the federal states were not entirely in agreement as to whether the same or regional regulations should apply throughout the entire state. Vorarlberg and Burgenland in particular had advocated the latter.
Vienna for stricter rules
In the SPÖ-ruled Vienna, it was pointed out that they had already clearly communicated on Thursday that they wanted to continue to maintain the stricter corona measures in the federal capital, reported the Ö1 “Mittagsjournal”.
The number of cases is increasing exorbitantly.
Carinthia LH Peter Kaiser
Carinthia’s Governor Peter Kaiser (SPÖ) identified the need for action in view of stagnating vaccination numbers, “the number of cases is increasing exorbitantly”. He also spoke out in favor of setting common guidelines across Austria in this situation instead of acting differently from region to region.
Stage one of the set of rules, which was first presented at the beginning of September, has been in force since September 15, when the ten percent capacity utilization in the intensive care units (ICU) with Covid patients was reached (or 200 occupied beds). Most recently, a good 220 corona patients were on Austria’s ICUs (or 11 percent utilization). In view of the rapidly growing number of infections, however, politicians fear an imminent increase towards level two.
In phase one, the higher-quality FFP2 mask is to be worn wherever a simple face protection had to be put on before the introduction of the “step-by-step plan”. This applies, for example, in supermarkets and other grocery stores, pharmacies, tobacconists and in public transport. In other trade (e.g. clothing or electronics stores) vaccinated and convalescent people are allowed to go into stores without a mask, while unvaccinated people have to wear an FFP2 mask. Stricter regulations already apply in Vienna and Salzburg, where the FFP2 mask is mandatory in all retail outlets.
With the entry into force of level one, the 3G rule was extended from the usual settings (e.g. gastronomy or events) to events of 25 people or more (previously 100 people). In level one, antigen tests are only valid for 24 hours for 3G detection (instead of 48 hours previously). Like before, PCR tests can be used for 72 hours. In Vienna, however, there are stricter requirements in this area than in the rest of Austria: Antigen tests are not valid (except for children under 12 years of age). The PCR test is only valid for 48 hours (72 hours for children under 12).
Level two remains unchanged: seven days after an intensive care unit occupancy rate of 15 percent (300 beds) is exceeded, a 2G rule applies in night catering (and “similar settings”) as well as for events without assigned seats with more than 500 people, i.e. only more Those who have been vaccinated or have recovered have access. In addition, in level two antigen tests with self-acceptance (“living room tests”) are no longer valid as evidence for areas with a 3G entry rule. In the federal capital Vienna, exactly these tightenings have already been put into effect outside of the “phased plan”.
If the occupancy rate is 20 percent (400 beds), step three follows. In areas with 3G, the antigen test then loses its validity throughout Austria. This means that only those who have been vaccinated, those who have recovered or who have a current PCR test would have access everywhere. What has been new since Friday is that this measure takes effect immediately when the limit value is exceeded. The seven-day waiting period previously envisaged is no longer applicable.
The new phase four of the plan will take effect when the occupancy rate is 25 percent or 500 ICU beds are occupied. A “2G” rule is then planned in all “3G” areas: Unvaccinated people are prohibited from entering restaurants, hotels, events, cultural institutions, leisure facilities or sporting events. This also applies if a negative test is presented – regardless of whether it is antigen or PCR. According to the Ministry of Health, exact details are still being worked out, but body-hugging service providers such as hairdressers, for whom 3G evidence is currently required, could also be affected.
Should the intensive care unit occupancy even exceed 600 beds (or 30 percent), then phase five occurs, in which the 33 percent utilization of the intensive care capacities with Covid patients, which is considered “critical”, would almost be reached. This level brings “exit restrictions” for the unvaccinated – the lockdown known from earlier pandemic phases.
This would mean that for all those who have neither a vaccination nor an upright convalescence status, leaving their own private living area would only be permitted in exceptional cases. Basic supplies (such as shopping) or the way to work are then allowed.