How Austria plans to end the coronavirus lockdown before Christmas

How Austria plans to end the coronavirus lockdown before Christmas
Austrian Health Minister Rudolf Anschober. Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP
Austrian authorities have forecast a possible end to the coronavirus lockdown for December 7th, provided new infections continue to fall.

Austrian health officials have said the next two weeks will be crucial in determining whether Austria can exit lockdown. 

In an interview with Krone Zeitung published over the weekend, Austrian Health Minister Rudolf Anschober said the December 7th date could only be achieved with the participation of the general public. 

“The next two weeks are critical,” he said. “Lockdown must not be extended.”

EXPLAINED: How Austria's mass-testing plan will work 

 

Measures ‘slowly starting to have an effect’

In a press conference on Monday morning, Anschober welcomed the first tentative signs that the country’s lockdown measures were working. 

Monday brought the lowest number of daily infections in almost a month, reports Der Standard. A total of 3,145 new confirmed infections were reported on Monday morning, the lowest single day figures since October 27th. 

Anschober said the measures were “slowly starting to have an effect”, although he warned that figures were always lower on a Monday due to the way reporting is done over the weekend. 

He appealed to the population to “avoid any contact which is not required”.

“The pandemic is not a natural disaster, not an earthquake,” Anschober said

“It is in our hands that we as a community do something about it, then there will be an effect.”

The Minister added that Austria still had a “long way to go” in its battle against the virus, although he provided some hope that the lockdown may be ended on December 7th, with the country opening up again in time for Christmas. 

Anschober declined to provide a concrete numerical metric which would decide the end of the lockdown, but said keeping the R-Rate down was key. 

The R-number – the crucial metric which determines how the virus is spreading through the community – in Austria is currently 1.09. 

“We won't see how the lockdown actually worked until mid-December. That is why there is no specific numbers for December 6th (to be the last day of lockdown),” he said.  

“The reproductive factor is essential. You want to get well below 1, ideally below 0.9 or even towards 0.8.

“The second wave is really tough.”

While Anschober said the government was sensitive to the fact people wanted to have a normal Christmas, the main goal of the government was to ensure the population “can get to the vaccination safely”. 

READ: When will the coronavirus vaccine be available in Austria? 

Anschober has forecast the first people may be vaccinated for the virus at the end of December or at the start of January. 

 

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