Covid-19 in Austria: Follow the latest developments as they happen

Catch up on the latest Covid-19 news and current statistics in The Local's roundup as they happen throughout the week.

Anti Covid protest Vienna
Demonstrators set off a flare during a protest at Austria's Covid measures organised by the far-right Freedom Party. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

Overview of the Covid-19 situation in Austria

As of December 3rd the 7-day incidence rate (new infections per 100,000 people) was 714. Carinthia (1,186) now has the highest incidence, followed by Vorarlberg (1,153), while Burgenland (476) and Vienna (398) have the lowest rates but are still classed as “very high risk” by Austria’s Corona Commission. 

A total of 154,223 people in Austria are currently positive for Covid-19 as of December 3rd, with 2,530 people being treated for the disease in hospital outside ICUs, according to AGES. An additional 642 Covid patients are currently in intensive care.

A total of 6,374,080 people (71.4 percent of the total population) have received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose, according to the Health Ministry, and 6,007,080 (67.4 percent) have received two doses as of December 3rd.

Friday, December 3rd

The number of people to have received two vaccine doses in Austria has now passed 6 million, according to the Health Ministry.

The recommendations for people who have contact with a positive Covid case are being reviewed due to concerns over the new Omicron variant, the Health Minister has said, though we don’t yet know details.

The whole country remains red or ‘very high risk’ in the latest review from Austria’s Corona Commission, and the commission recommends a “cautious” re-opening when the lockdown ends on December 12th.

Recent protests against restrictions and against the planned vaccine mandate have led police in Lower Austria to strengthen their presence outside hospitals.

A case of the new Omicron variant of Covid-19 has been confirmed in Vienna.

Thursday, December 2nd

A Covid-19 vaccine developed by Franco-Austrian biotech company Valneva is being assessed by the European Medicines Agency with a view to roll it out.

Wednesday, December 1st

Austria’s Härtefallfond (Hardship Fund) opens today for another round of applications for help from business owners affected by the consequences of the pandemic.

If the pandemic situation post-lockdown allows for shops to open, non-essential retail businesses will be allowed to open on Sunday, December 19th.

Thousands of people joined protests against Austria’s Covid restrictions and the plans for a vaccine mandate in particular, with demonstrations in several different cities and regions.

Tuesday, November 30th

The government gave a brief update on plans for the mandatory vaccination law following talks with experts and opposition parties, but there was no concrete news on the age range, exempted groups, or the fines that will apply.

Essential shops will close at 7pm during the second half of lockdown (starting on Thursday) in response to a trade union request.

The government officially extended the lockdown for an extra ten days, meaning December 11th will be the final day. 

In the past 24 hours, 8,186 new Covid-19 infections were reported in Austria.

Monday, November 29th

Austria has reported its first known case of the new Omicron variant of Covid, the Health Ministry confirmed on Monday.

The government met with scientific experts for the first summit since the national lockdown began a week ago today, to discuss the plan going forward and the impact of the new variant. There was no press conference after the summit.

Austria broke a positive Covid record on Friday, administering more than 150,000 Covid vaccine doses for the first time. That topped the previous record of 144,419 from early June. The vast majority (113,965) were third doses of the vaccine, together with 17,612 first doses and 20,292 second doses.

How does Austria compare to its neighbours?

The chart below from Our World in Data shows how the number of reported daily Covid cases in Austria compares to those in neighbouring countries.

Note that case numbers depend on rates of testing as well as the prevalence of the virus, so this is not necessarily a true comparison of the spread of the virus in each country.

Do you have a question about Covid-19 in Austria? Contact our editorial team at [email protected] and they will get back to you and do their best to help.

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Austria in shock over doctor’s suicide following anti-vax abuse

Austrians expressed shock and anger this week over the suicide of doctor who had been the target of a torrent of abuse and threats from anti-vaccination protesters.

Austria in shock over doctor's suicide following anti-vax abuse

The bells of Vienna’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral rang out in memory of Lisa-Maria Kellermayr on Monday, and hundreds of people held a candle vigil outside, after the 36-year-old doctor was found dead at her practice on July 29.

She had long been the target of death threats because of her criticism of the widespread anti-lockdown protests of 2021.

An autopsy later confirmed that Kellermayr had taken her own life.

Austria has found itself deeply polarised over coronavirus restrictions and in particular a government policy –subsequently dropped — of making vaccination against the coronavirus compulsory.

Kellermayr — whose practice was in the region of Upper Austria where immunisation rates are particularly low — had frequently complained of the menace.

“For more than seven months, we have been receiving… death threats from those opposed to coronavirus measures and vaccinations,” she wrote at the time, sharing a message from one internet user who said they would pose as a patient in order to attack her and her staff.

She described how she had “invested more than 100,000 euros” ($102,000) in measures to ensure her patients’ safety and was on the brink of bankruptcy.

Then, at the end of June, Kellermayr announced on her professional website that she would not be seeing patients until further notice.

Daniel Landau, who organised a memorial vigil for her in Vienna, said that Kellermayr had become a virtual recluse for several weeks. “She didn’t dare to leave” her office, Landau told AFP.

Fanning the aggression

On Saturday, the head of Austria’s doctors’ association, Johannes Steinhart, said that while aggressive behaviour towards medical staff was not new, it had been “fired up and noticeably aggravated” by the debate over Covid-19 and vaccines.

The police, who had previously suggested Kellermayr was exploiting the situation for attention, insist they did everything to protect her. The local prosecutor’s office also rejected suggestions it could have done more.

“As soon as we received the police report (identifying one of the suspects), we sent it over to the relevant authorities in Germany,” spokesman Christoph Weber said.

On Friday, prosecutors in the neighbouring German state of Bavaria said a 59-year-old suspect was being investigated by a specialist hate speech unit.

At the beginning of the week, Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen visited the small town of Seewalchen where Kellermayr lived to lay flowers in her memory.

After news of her death broke, he had appealed to Austrians to “put an end to intimidation and fear”.

‘They’re gagging us’

But on some Telegram groups, the hateful messages continue.

“Some people are celebrating her death; others believe the vaccine killed her,” said Ingrid Brodnig, a journalist and author who investigates online disinformation.

“Stricts laws exist” already against online hate, but not enough is done to implement them, Brodnig said.

One government minister has floated the idea of a separate prosecutor’s office to target such cases. Doctors and researchers have also been targeted elsewhere.

French infectious disease specialist, Karine Lacombe, described how she had been vilified for her work as part of a collective of doctors combatting coronavirus-related disinformation.

She, too, complained that the response from the authorities in the face of threats was not robust enough, and has scaled down her public appearances this year.

“You end up thinking that the risk isn’t worth it,” she told AFP. “In that sense (the aggressors) have won, they are gagging us,” she said.