Austria passes one million total Covid-19 cases

Austria has passed one million confirmed cases of Covid-19 as the prospect of yet another lockdown looms.

Austria passes one million total Covid-19 cases
The number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care is close to 500. Photo: Carla Bernhardt/AFP

A total of 1,011,465 coronavirus infections have been confirmed in Austria since the start of the pandemic, according to the Austrian Health Ministry. Because not everyone who catches Covid-19 is symptomatic, this is likely lower than the true figure, although Austria has a higher rate of testing than many other countries, meaning a higher proportion of cases are likely to be reflected in the statistics.

A total of 818,749 PCR and antigen tests were registered in the past 24 hours. Of these, 440,105 were PCR tests, of which 3.4 percent were positive, a positivity rate in line with the average for the past week. Many regions have been struggling to cope with the high demand for tests, necessitated both by new 3G rules for workplaces and by the increasing spread of the virus.

In the past 24 hours another all-time high for daily new cases was recorded with 15,145 new cases.

The nationwide incidence rate (new cases reported per 100,000 people over the past seven days) is now approaching 1,000, and is over 1,500 in Salzburg and Upper Austria.

The latter two regions announced on Thursday that they would be bringing in a general lockdown to last “several weeks”, affecting the full population, from next week. It is not yet clear if this measure will be adopted nationwide.

More than 11,903 people have died in Austria of Covid-19, according to Health Ministry data, 55 of them in the last 24 hours.

In the country’s hospitals, 2,787 people are currently receiving treatment for Covid-19, including 498 seriously ill patients in intensive care units.

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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.”