The Omicron variant and the general Covid-19 situation in Austria were the main topics of conversation at the GECKO meeting on Monday.
In the morning, laboratory operators, the army and representatives from the federal states attended a virtual “test summit” to discuss how tests can be carried out more effectively nationwide and how testing infrastructure can be expanded.
GECKO leaders Major General Rudolf Striedinger and Chief Medical Officer Katharina Reich were in attendance, as well as Thomas Starlinger from the Covid-19 Future Operations Clearing Board.
According to ORF, Michael Havel, CEO of Lifebrain laboratory in Vienna (who was also in attendance), said Lifebrain’s testing capabilities could be expanded at short notice to evaluate test results from other Austrian states if needed.
Havel recommended building two to three new large testing centres and that Lifebrain is ready to invest €60 to €70 million into such facilities. However, any decisions on expanding testing infrastructure have to be made by the federal government.
On Monday evening, GECKO attendees then discussed whether the current restrictions are enough to cope with the increasing number of Omicron cases and the expected wave in January.
There is currently no new information for the public and any recommendations made by the experts on Monday will be considered by the federal government. If restrictions are to be tightened again in the new year, the government will make an announcement in the coming days.
New Covid-19 rules now in force in Austria
On Monday December 27th, a new curfew came into effect which means the gastronomy sector in Austria (including in hotels) must now close at 10pm. This includes New Year’s Eve.
Private gatherings of up to 25 people with 2G proof will be permitted, but if they are indoor and without assigned seating, FFP2 masks are compulsory, and the authorities requested that people reduce their contacts as much as possible.
If assigned seating is available, the maximum number of people rises to 500 if everyone has proof of 2G (full vaccination or recovery); 1,000 for 2G+ (full vaccination or recovery and a negative PCR test), and 2,000 if people have 2G+ and a booster dose. FFP2 masks will also be required.
READ MORE: How Austria’s Covid rules change today