Austria: Covid-19 restrictions reintroduced in Tyrol

For the first time since the start of the summer, Covid-19 restrictions are being introduced again as the number of cases significantly rise in the Lienz district of East Tyrol.

Austria: Covid-19 restrictions reintroduced in Tyrol
Covid restrictions are being re-introduced in the eastern part of Tyrol. Photo: JOHANN GRODER / APA / AFP

New exit restrictions are being introduced in East Tyrol after Covid-19 cases increased by more than 100 per cent in one week.

The state of Tyrol has taken action in the Lienz district after the AGES seven-day incidence rate reached 311.4 – the highest number in Austria.

The majority of cases have been recorded in the communities of Innervillgraten and Oberlienz.

The announcement about the new restrictions was made on Monday evening and will come into effect from midnight on Wednesday August 11th. 

EXPLAINED: What is Austria’s Covid-19 immunity card and how do I get it?

The measures include exit tests (negative PCR or antigen tests) to leave Innervillgraten and Oberlienz – with an exception for vaccinated people and for those that have recovered from coronavirus and received one dose of the vaccine.

This applies to all people that have stayed in Innervillgraten and Oberlienz and want to leave the district – regardless of where they usually live.

In Innervillgraten and Oberlienz, events with more than 50 people will also be banned during the period of restrictions.

Other measures in the Lienz district include a maximum of 100 people at events, mandatory registration at all events, and an FFP2 mask requirement for retail, indoor and outdoor events. 

UPDATE: Austria to roll out Covid booster shots in autumn

The compulsory exit tests are scheduled to end on August 24th at midnight, and all other measures will end on September 1st at midnight.

The new measures are the first set of regional restrictions to be imposed in Austria since the start of the summer.

It follows the guidance from the federal government that action should be taken when the seven-day incidence rate passes 300.

According to ORF Tirol, the Lienz district has a lower than average vaccination rate.

READ MORE: What do we know about Austria’s vaccine sceptics?

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Could Austria be spared another wave of Covid this winter?

Specialists in Austria - and worldwide - can't agree if the Covid-19 pandemic is nearing its end, and many remain cautious. Here's what you need to know.

Could Austria be spared another wave of Covid this winter?

The World Health Organisation’s head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus recently said that the pandemic was not over yet, but that “the end is in sight”. Similarly, US President Joe Biden stated: “The pandemic is over, but we still have a problem with Covid.”

In Austria, experts are cautiously optimistic. Dorothee von Laer, a virologist at the Medical University of Innsbruck, said: “A pandemic is over when a high level of immunity has built up in the population, and that is probably the case everywhere in the world except in China”, Austrian daily newspaper Der Standard reported.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to get the new adapted Covid-19 vaccine in Austria

Herwig Kollaritsch, infectologist and member of Austria’s national vaccination panel (NIG), has a similar view. “We are increasingly getting into a somewhat better situation because the immunity level in the population is rising due to many vaccinations and infections.”

Though he is more cautious: “We have always had problems due to a change of variants, and even now, we are absolutely not safe from surprises”.

New variants

The biggest fear ahead of winter is precisely that: a change of variants, specialists say. Especially since more and more omicron mutations are being found and they can circumvent the immune defences quite well, Ulrich Elling, a molecular biologist at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, told Der Standard.

However, since all the current mutations are still omicron variants, the severe courses of the disease continue to be rare.

READ ALSO: Reader question: When should I get a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in Austria?

“We still use hospitalisation and death rates as parameters. So when it comes to that, we are out of the woods. But still, a lot of people will get sick – not very seriously, but they will get sick,” Kollaritsch said.

Elling agrees: “Of course, statements about the supposed end of the pandemic are striking a chord with people at the moment. We all want it to be over. Nevertheless, the numbers will rise again. Above all, the new variants escape our immune response more than any other variant before.”

For him, it’s wrong to say that the pandemic is over or that there won’t be a new infection wave in winter. Even though they may be of milder courses of the disease, the virus is still out there and will infect people in the coming months, he believes.

READ ALSO: From inflation to Covid: What to expect from Austria’s winter season