NOTE: On Sunday, January 17th, Austria announced it would be extending the lockdown until February 7th. More information is available here.
Austrian Health Minister Rudolf Anschober said on Wednesday that the country was now entering the “most difficult phase of the pandemic” due to the coronavirus mutation, which was first detected in the United Kingdom.
“We really have a problem” Anschober told the ORF Report.
Anschober said the government was set to complete “very precise analysis” this week to consider whether or not to extend the lockdown further.
The Health Minister said it would be “completely irresponsible, in view of the fact that there may also be a spread (of the new virus variant, note) in our country, to stick with old plans”.
“It is our responsibility to protect the citizens of Austria. That has the highest priority.”
Austrian officials convened a special session of the national council for a meeting on Wednesday.
He said authorities were considering stricter rules, including a compulsory FFP2 mask requirement.
There are an estimated 70 cases of the coronavirus mutation detected in Austria, including 17 cases in a ski school in Tyrol and more cases at a retirement home in Vienna.
“This will mean that the number of infections will increase,” Anschober said.
Austria on Wednesday decided to reopen schools from January 25th, although it will be done pursuant to strict rules including weekly testing and having classes only half full.
Anschober pointed to Ireland, where the mutation turned the country from having some of the lowest rates to “three weeks later having the highest values in all of Europe”.
“That British virus mutation is spreading across the continent in an alarming way”.
A decision on the lockdown extension was not expected until next week.