Why coronavirus infections are again on the rise in Austria

After decreasing for several months, coronavirus infection numbers are again “increasing rapidly” in Austria. Here’s why.

Why coronavirus infections are again on the rise in Austria
A coronavirus testing centre in Vienna. Photo: ALEX HALADA / AFP

In mid November, new coronavirus infection numbers hit a peak in Austria, with the seven-day incidence rate climbing to 587 per 100,000 residents – just days before the country’s second lockdown was imposed. 

Since then – and despite one further period of relaxation before another lockdown – infection numbers have been in gradual decline, hovering just above 100 per 100,000 for the first two weeks of February. 

In recent days however, the infection rate has again begun to climb. As at February 22nd, it is now at 134 per 100,000 – with further increased predicted. 

Coronavirus infection numbers are ‘increasing rapidly’ in Austria – why?

Peter Klimek, from the Complexity Science Research Hub in Vienna, told Austria’s Kurier newspaper that new infections were “increasing rapidly” across Austria. 

Klimek said there were three primary reasons for the increase: the relaxation of the lockdown, increased testing and the spread of the coronavirus variants. 

From February 8th, Austria relaxed a number of coronavirus lockdown measures, including winding back the 24-hour stay-at-home order and allowing ‘body hugging services’ such as hairdressers and tattoo parlours to open again. 

An assessment of the official figures shows an almost immediate spike in case numbers – followed by a gradual increase in the seven-day incidence figure. 

EXPLAINED: What are Austria's new coronavirus lockdown rules? 

The lockdown relaxation on February 8th was accompanied by mandatory testing requirements to visit hairdressers and tattoo parlours, while widespread testing was also implemented at schools. 

While increased testing is seen as an essential step in identifying virus clusters and containing its spread, it also leads to increases in official infection numbers. 

Finally, the prevalence of the British and South African mutations – each of which is believed to be more infectious than known variants – is expected to have contributed to the increase. 

In some states, the British variant is already the most common form of the virus – which is an indication as to its higher infectiousness. 

In Burgenland, the British variant now represents 75 percent of all newly detected infections, while in Vienna and Lower Austria it is around 50 percent. 

“We have seen in recent weeks that the pandemic is not under control with this variant. This means that these cases double every two to four weeks right now,” Klimek said. 

Klimek said that the spread of the variant could lead to stricter lockdown measures by easter. 

“If a third wave came, we would not be able to withstand a wave as big as in autumn without it reaching the limits of capacity.”

Member comments

  1. The reason for the increase is people are tired of the lockdown and are not obeying the rules. I have seen people in my local village from as far away as Graz and Vienna, visiting during the school holidays, so they can go skiing. People are socialising at home as they are just tired of the isolation, and who could blame them. The EU has stuffed up the vaccine programme and there appears to be no hope of a change any time soon.

  2. The EU’s vaccine response is verging on being criminally irresponsible. The UK has vaccinated very nearly 18,000,000 people. How many in Austria and across the EU? This is not because we, here in Austria cannot, but because there is no Vaccine available, why?

    One could blame the French for insisting there Vaccines be used in quantity only to find out they were useless leading to scrappage and a black hole in Vaccine numbers. What say you President Macron?

    That all said the main responsibility lay with the EU Commission who’s arrogance, lack of accountability and sheer incompetence is frankly breathtaking. When this is all over EU members need to take a very serious look at EU management.

    Meanwhile the dying continues and will continue for a considerable time yet as EU citizens are offered as so much cannon fodder by a still utterly ineffectual and arrogant Commission. Percentage of EU Citizens vaccinated 3.5% UK 27%?

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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.