Coronavirus: Can Santa enter Austria on Christmas Eve?

Of advanced age and with obvious weight issues, Santa might appear to be in a risk group. But the WHO have clarified that he is in fact immune to Covid-19.

Coronavirus: Can Santa enter Austria on Christmas Eve?
Santa on a street car in Vienna. Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP

The pandemic need not deter Santa from travelling the world and handing out gifts this coming Christmas because he is immune to Covid-19, a World Health Organization official said Monday.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage, WHO's lead on the crisis Maria Van Kerkhove told a press briefing she understood many children were worried how the virus could impact Father Christmas.

“I understand the concern for Santa, because he is of older age,” she said, responding to a journalist's question about whether the gift-bearing figure, known for his grey whiskers and big belly, might not be at heightened risk from Covid.

“I can tell you that Santa Claus is immune to this virus,” said Van Kerkhove, who herself has two young sons.

“We had a brief chat with him and he is doing very well and Mrs Claus is doing very well, and they are very busy right now,” she said.

She also said WHO had heard from a number of world leaders, who said they had relaxed the quarantine measures that are hampering global travel and would allow Santa and his flying reindeer to enter their airspace.

“So he will be able to travel in and out of the airspace and be able to deliver presents to children,” she said.

But while seeming eager to help spread the holiday cheer, Van Kerkhove also stuck to the WHO's role of advising how best to stay safe and halt transmission of the virus that has killed more than 1.6 million people in the past year.

“I think it is very important that all the children of the world understand that physical distancing by Santa Claus and also of the children themselves must be strictly enforced,” she said.

Kids should listen to their parents and “make sure that they go to bed early on Christmas Eve,” she said, stressing that “Santa will be able to travel around the world to deliver presents.”


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EXPLAINED: How to register for the monkeypox vaccine in Vienna

Austria's capital city Vienna has begun registration appointments for those who want to get a monkeypox vaccine. Here's what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: How to register for the monkeypox vaccine in Vienna

As of September 9th, people can make reservations for monkeypox vaccination in Vienna, authorities announced. It is possible to register for the vaccine using the health service line by calling 1450 or via the Impfservice website.

The City of Vienna has said the pre-registration is needed because all planning will be done through a central system due to a shortage of vaccines.

“Please understand that due to the vaccine shortage, we cannot offer preventive monkeypox vaccination to everyone interested. We can use the reservation platform to quickly allocate available appointments and contact interested parties as soon as there are more vaccines”, the authorities said.

After the registration, people will be contacted to book appointments on September 14th. The first available date will be September 19th.

READ ALSO: Monkeypox in Austria: What causes it and is it serious?

Who should be vaccinated against monkeypox?

Vaccination of the general population is currently not recommended.

Preventive vaccination is only offered to health care workers with a very high risk of exposure to people with monkeypox (designated monkeypox departments/outpatient clinics/offices) and persons with individual risk behaviour (persons with frequently changing sexual contacts), the City of Vienna said.

The health authorities in Vienna also have a specific information sheet in English with more information on the disease.

Monkeypox is a notifiable disease caused by a virus closely related to the smallpox virus and which can cause a condition similar to smallpox but rarely deadly. People with immunodeficiencies, pregnant women and children are at risk of more severe symptoms.

The virus spreads from person to person through contact with infectious skin lesions, via air droplets through speaking, coughing, sneezing, or other body fluids, and when having prolonged and close physical contact, e.g. through sexual intercourse.

READ ALSO: Austria recommends 4th Covid vaccine dose for everyone over 12

Usually, the first symptoms show up 5 to 14 days (at the latest, 21 days) after exposure. These include fever, general exhaustion, headaches, muscle and body aches, gastrointestinal problems and frequently painfully swollen lymph nodes.

“If you have symptoms and have had contact with someone with monkeypox, you must self-isolate at once and call 1450. If you have a confirmed monkeypox infection, you need to stay in self-isolation until the last crust has fallen off”, the Austrian authorities added.