Will Austria impose a statewide isolation order on Tyrol?

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Will Austria impose a statewide isolation order on Tyrol?
A border control in Tyrol. Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP

The Austrian state of Tyrol has proposed a range of tougher measures in the hope of avoiding a statewide quarantine order due to variants of coronavirus.


The Austrian government is in talks with Tyrol’s leaders over what steps should be taken after mutations of the virus variant first detected in South Africa were found in the Austrian federal state.

The Austrian federal government issued a travel warning for the state on Monday afternoon

Health Minister Rudolf Anschober and Governor Günther Platter have continued the talks after not reaching a decision on Sunday. 

A decision is expected on Tuesday, but Tyrolean authorities have put forward their own measures to avoid a statewide quarantine order. 


What steps could be taken? 

The Krone newspaper has reported it is likely people living in Tyrol may only be allowed to travel to other federal states in Austria in exceptional cases, for example to work or in the event of illness.

There are also plans to stop people visiting second homes or holiday homes in the region. 

Last week virologist Dorothee von Laer called for Tyrol to be locked down for a month.

On Sunday German politician Markus Blume also called for very strict measures to contain the new mutation. 

What is Tyrol proposing?

The Tyrolean government has laid out a list of nine measures which could be adopted rather than isolating the state to combat the mutation of the virus.

It suggests rules asking people to avoid unnecessary trips, says cable car trips should only be allowed only with a negative PCR test result and asks for comprehensive PCR tests to be introduced in areas with a high seven-day incidence, which would currently include the town of Schwaz.

The specific measures can be seen here. 

What do Tyrol’s representatives say? 

The Kronen Zeitung newspaper reports Tyrolean Governor Günther Platter had already rejected a lockdown or quarantine several times, saying the data does not support such measures and calling for “proportionality”

Tyrol politician Josef Hechenberger said Tyrolians should not be “punished” for  being among the first to start sequencing the virus.

Erwin Zangerl, President of the Tyrolean Chamber of Labor, suggested if the Ministry of Health wanted to bring in quarantine in Tyrol, it should also provide the region with a larger number of vaccines.

Tyrol's Chamber of Commerce President Christoph Walser pointed out infection levels in Tyrol are below the national average and said isolation would be a blow for the area’s entrepreneurs. 


What has Tyrol done so far?

Most of the virus mutations have occurred in the  Schwaz district and surrounding areas of Tyrol. In response, Tyrol has expanded contact tracing and mass testing in this region.

Over 1,500 tests antigen tests have been carried out in the district so far, with around 4,000 registrations.

The positive antigen cases are now being checked with a PCR test.

In addition, mass PCR tests were carried out in five East Tyrolean municipalities, and found no confirmed mutations of the coronavirus in these communities, or in the entire Lienz district.

To date, 1,000 tests have been carried out in East Tyrol and 2,000 people have registered for them. Results are still being evaluated. 

What variants of the virus have been found?

Innsbruck virologist Dorothee von Laer says Tyrol is now considered a European hotspot for the South African mutant of the coronavirus (B.1.351).

The mutation is not only more contagious, but tests have shown vaccination might not work as well against the new variant.

How many cases have been found with the mutated virus? 

According to the authorities, 165 cases of the B.1.351 mutation have so far been confirmed in Tyrol. Eight people are still actively positive.

There are currently around 230 suspected cases of this variant - 118 of which have already been partially sequenced.

Are the number of coronavirus infections going up? 

The number of people infected with coronavirus is falling in Tyrol. As of midday on Sunday, 1,170 people were infected - 26 fewer than the day before.

Figures show 88 new infections were added within the past 24 hours, and 114 more people had recovered from the virus. Meanwhile, no other person died with or from Covid 19 disease.


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