Vienna mayor calls for ‘caution’ as Austria pushes ahead with lockdown end

Vienna mayor calls for ‘caution’ as Austria pushes ahead with lockdown end
Vienna's mayor Michael Ludwig (L) arrives for a novel coronavirus antigen rapid test on December 7, 2020. credit ALEX HALADA / AFP
Mayor of Vienna Michael Ludwig said on Saturday that the situation in the capital’s hospitals did not justify the government's recent decision to lift most restrictions against the spread of the coronavirus in the coming weeks.

“I am cautious and I don’t want to raise anyone’s expectations,” Ludwig of the Social Democrats told broadcaster Ö1 – a day after Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said that most restrictions would be lifted next month.

Ludwig said that there had been no significant improvement in the situation in Vienna’s intensive care wards in recent weeks, even if occupancy had dropped slightly. “It won’t be possible to open everything in one go,” he cautioned.

There are currently over 500 Covid-19 patients in Austria’s intensive care wards.

Kurz promised in a press conference on Friday that lockdown measures in the areas of culture, sport, gastronomy and tourism would be relaxed in May. 

“We are in the last metres in dealing with this pandemic. Freedom is within one’s grasp,” Kurz said optimistically after meeting with state leaders and health experts in Vienna on Friday. 

Kurz said the deliberations were “swift and harmonious”, despite divergent opinions on which path Austria should take out of lockdown. 

However, he declined to give specifics of the measures that would be relaxed in May, except to say that the easing would come into effect at the same time across the entire country.

READ MORE: ‘Freedom is near’ – Austria to relax most coronavirus measures in May

Meanwhile, the state of Burgenland is forging ahead with plans to end its lockdown next Monday, a decision that has come in for criticism in other parts of the country.

Ludwig said that Burgenland was moving ahead too quickly, stressing that, “I have chosen a different path because the health of the people is the most important thing to me.”

SPÖ leader Pamela Rendi-Wagner also said that the state on the Hungarian border risks causing a public health fiasco due to the high level of intensive care occupancy in its hospitals.

Roland Fürst, a leading figure in the Burgeland government, responded by saying that, “all of these accusations are completely absurd and testify to a narrow understanding of political responsibility. 

“Who actually takes responsibility for the massive psychological, physical, social and financial problems that are already escalating and their resultant damage?” he said.

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