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SEBASTIAN KURZ

Austria: Kurz promises any future lockdowns ‘only for the unvaccinated’

Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has announced his plans for dealing with Covid-19 in the coming months, saying any lockdown measures will only be put in place for those who haven't had the vaccine and ICU beds will be the most important metric in deciding policy.

Austria: Kurz promises any future lockdowns 'only for the unvaccinated'
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Photo: JOHN THYS / POOL / AFP

As the autumn looms closer, Kurz has revealed his five-point plan for the pandemic with possible changes to the 3G rule (tested, vaccinated, recovered) and how the case rates are monitored.

Speaking to ORF as part of the Summer Talks series, Kurz revealed the vaccination programme will continue to be a main focus, describing it as a way back to normality.

The five-point plan includes replacing the seven-day incidence by AGES (Agency for Health and Food Safety) with the occupancy of intensive care beds as a key indicator of the severity of the pandemic.

Kurz ruled out another general lockdown, but said if further measures are needed in the future it should only be for unvaccinated people.

READ MORE: Vienna sees 60 percent in ICU admissions in one week

The government will continue to encourage people to get vaccinated, with a further promotion of booster vaccinations (known as the third stitch in Austria).

The 3G rules will be tightened and action will be taken against forged vaccination certificates.

Schools will remain open with intensive testing (if needed) to replace closures. Kurz acknowledged this would mean an increase in infections, but it was a risk that had to be taken to keep schools open.

The Kurier reports that Kurz will discuss the five-point plan with leaders from the provincial governments on Wednesday 8th September.

In the ORF interview, Kurz also outlined plans for a labour market package to counteract inflation and the implementation of the eco-social tax reform.

He said the reforms are about strengthening small and medium-sized incomes, lowering the tax burden and increasing pensions, while also working towards climate targets. 

READ ALSO: Austria wants to make nightclubs and apres ski ‘vaccinated only’ from October

Additionally, the Summer Talk covered the issue of immigration and the crisis in Afghanistan. Kurz reinstated his restrictive line and referred to the importance of integration for asylum seekers.

Finally, Kurz was asked about the impending charge of alleged false testimony before the Ibiza Committee and the possibility of conviction. He again ruled out resignation, even if charged.

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Austria recommends 4th Covid vaccine dose for everyone over 12

Austria's autumn Covid-19 plan includes a fourth Covid-19 dose to all those older than 12 and the Health Ministry doesn't rule out further measures, especially a return of the mask mandate.

Austria recommends 4th Covid vaccine dose for everyone over 12

Austria’s Health Ministry and the country’s National Immunisation Panel (NIG) have recommended a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine to the general population ahead of autumn.

Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) and physician Herwig Kollaritsch of the Immunisation Panel have requested people take the vaccination before the cold months, reiterating that the Covid-19 vaccine is safe and protects against more severe courses of the disease.

“You can do a lot before autumn. Don’t wait until the numbers rise. Get vaccinated, take the booster shots”, Kollaritsch said in a press conference this Wednesday, August 31st.

READ ALSO: LATEST: The Covid rules across Austria from August 2022

The previous recommendation was only for people older than 60 or those in risk groups. “After there was already the booster recommendation for the vulnerable and over 60-year-olds over the summer, all other groups are to get a booster in the coming weeks,” the health minister said.

Only 58.9 percent of the population is currently sufficiently vaccinated, as per the recommendation of the National Immunisation Panel (NIG) – which for the majority of the population is three doses – or if they’ve had Covid then two doses and a recent recovered status.

New measures ahead of autumn

The health minister stopped short of announcing new Covid-19 measures for autumn.

When he announced the end of the mask mandate in the country back in May, Rauch had said the suspension would be “temporary” and masks were likely to return after summer, depending on the pandemic, particularly on hospitalisation numbers.

Currently, masks are obligatory in the health sector and on public transport in Vienna.

“We evaluate the situation weekly by talking with the hospital heads in the states. We have a very good view of the Covid-19 data, and we don’t rule out bringing measures back in the future”, he said.

READ ALSO: Vienna extends stricter Covid-19 rules until late October

He added: “It is likely that in the autumn, compulsory masks will again be useful and necessary in certain areas such as public transport or supermarkets,”.

For now, though, the minister said he recommends people to get vaccinated, wear masks where social distancing is not possible, and get tested regularly – even if those measures are not mandatory.

When should you get vaccinated?

The fourth vaccination should come a minimum of four months after the third one (or after a Covid-19 infection) but not after six months of the third dose (regardless of whether or not the person has had an infection after the last vaccine), according to the NIG.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Which Austrian states will allow Covid-infected teachers in classrooms?

For children between five and eleven years of age, the basic immunisation – which consists of three vaccinations – should be completed by the start of school at the latest; no booster vaccination is currently recommended in this age group.

Austria expects vaccines adapted to the omicron variant to arrive in the country before the end of September, the health minister said.

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