‘15 months has felt like 15 years’: Why Austria’s health minister called it quits

Austria's health minister announced Tuesday he would resign, saying he was overworked and exhausted managing the coronavirus crisis.

‘15 months has felt like 15 years': Why Austria's health minister called it quits
Austrian health minister Rudolf Anschober. Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP

Rudolf Anschober became health minister early last year when his Green party formed an unlikely coalition with Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s conservatives, just before coronavirus started spreading rapidly in Europe.

“I’ve decided to resign from my job,” the 60-year-old told reporters. “I’m overworked and powered out,” he said, adding that 15 months on the job had felt like 15 years.

He warned the pandemic was still in full swing and should not be “underestimated”. “We are not out of the woods yet,” he said, becoming emotional as he thanked friends and colleagues.

Anschober said he had suffered circulation problems.

He had been absent for work since last week and also took a week off early last month when he checked into hospital.

Anschober had seen his profile rise rapidly during the crisis, even eclipsing the popularity of his boss mid-last year as Austria managed to keep the pandemic relatively at bay during the first wave.

Anschober told AFP in an interview last year how helping steer the country through the pandemic had been “quite a challenge”, including curtailing freedoms normally defended by the Greens, such as those of movement and assembly.

The Alpine EU member of almost 9 million has so far recorded more than 581,000 cases with more than 9,700 deaths.

Its capital Vienna and two other adjacent provinces have been under lockdown since early April as intensive care units have been filling up rapidly.

The veteran politician already took three months off from politics in 2012 because of burnout.

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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”