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.

Woman in face mask
As new variants raise concerns, Austria is keeping its mask mandate. (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)

Overview of the Covid-19 situation in Austria

As of January 28th the 7-day incidence rate (new infections per 100,000 people) was 2,381. Tyrol (3,130) has the highest incidence, followed by Vienna (2,841), while Burgenland (1,958) and Lower Austria (1,908) have the lowest rates.

A total of 338,262 people in Austria are currently positive for Covid-19 as of January 28th, with 1,220 people being treated for the disease in hospital outside ICUs, according to AGES. An additional 176 Covid patients are currently in intensive care.

A total of 6,742,953 people (75.5 percent of the total population) have received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose, according to the Health Ministry, and 6,467,136 (72.4 percent) have a valid vaccine pass as of January 27th.

Friday, January 28th

According to new statistics, excess mortality in Austria was at nine percent in 2021. The state with the lowest excess mortality was Burgenland, at just under five percent.

And the Ministry of Health has said that the planned shortening of vaccine pass validity (as of February 1st, two vaccine doses are currently set to be considered as proof of full vaccination for six months, down from the current nine) may be adjusted. Further details are expected on Friday afternoon.

Thursday, January 27th

More than 300,000 people are currently infected with Covid-19 in Austria as the number of daily new infections passed 40,000 today, but for the moment the number of Covid patients in ICUs is still below 200.

According to the Health Ministry, a total of 2,600 classes (of a total of 58,000 nationwide) and nine whole schools are currently online-only due to Covid-19. In Vienna, around one in ten municipal kindergartens is currently closed.

The national crisis committee (GECKO) will meet tomorrow afternoon, but public broadcaster ORF reports that no easing of Covid measures is expected to be recommended yet, until Austria has passed the peak of the Omicron wave in an estimated two or three weeks. There are currently no press conferences scheduled after the meeting.

Wednesday, January 26th

Austria’s lockdown for unvaccinated people will end on January 31st, the government confirmed today.

From February the law will change to make third doses of the Covid vaccine permissible from three months after the second dose, though the National Vaccine Committee recommends getting the third dose four to six months after the second.

Austria reported over 30,000 new Covid infections in 24 hours for the first time today (34,011), and in the next week the number of daily new cases is forecast to reach 37,000.

The Styria region is updating its contact tracing and quarantine strategy. This means people who test positive can end their quarantine from the fifth day using an at-home PCR test, if they have been totally symptom-free for at least 48 hours. At the same time, infected people will be asked to contact people they recently had contact with themselves, rather than through contact tracing.

Tuesday, January 25th

Austria’s incidence rate has today passed 2,000, reaching 2,036 nationwide.

Police seized several fake vaccine passes in raids in the town of Schladming, Styria.

Monday, January 24th

Austria’s travel rules change today, with the virus variant list being removed so that the 2G+ rule (full vaccination or recovery, plus either a booster dose or negative PCR test) now applies to travellers from all countries.

Upper Austria has paused contact tracing due to the fast rate of spread of Covid-19, meaning local health authorities say the chance of breaking infection chains is low. People who test positive are instead asked to get in touch with people they have been in close contact with. According to a review by Der Standard, Vienna, Lower Austria and Vorarlberg are still carrying out contact tracing as before, but Austria’s other five regions have also cut down the amount they can do and are prioritising to focus on vulnerable parts of society.

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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Ba.4 and Ba.5 Covid variants detected in Austria: What you need to know

Austria has detected new subvariants Ba.4 and Ba.5, with cases reported in Vienna, Styria and Salzburg so far.

Ba.4 and Ba.5 Covid variants detected in Austria: What you need to know

The pandemic is not over, as we repeatedly hear the Austrian authorities saying. The news that sub-variants of the coronavirus have been found in the country has led to some concern.

Here is what we know so far about the pandemic situation in Austria.

New variants BA.4 and BA.5 in Austria

Austrian media reported that the new Covid-19 sub-variants known as BA.4 and BA.5 have been detected for the first time in the country.

The city of Vienna has reported its first cases to the Ministry of Health, and some individual cases were also identified in Styria and Salzburg. 

READ ALSO: UPDATED: The latest coronavirus restrictions in Austria

Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) said that the omicron sub-variants provide slightly more infections than the currently dominant variant BA.2. There is a suspicion that they could be better at avoiding the body’s current antibody defences against Covid-19.

However, this is viewed as a sign that the current downward trend seen in the number of infections could slow down, but not that it would stop or that the infection rate would go up again. 

There is also no indication so far that the variants first identified in South Africa create a more severe disease course. 

Should we be concerned? 

Not according to specialists. Health authorities in Austria are “monitoring the situation very closely, but it doesn’t worry us at the moment”, Mario Dujakovic, spokesman for the Vienna Health City Councillor, said.

READ ALSO: Five possible winter scenarios for Covid-19 in Austria

“There is currently nothing to suggest that we should be concerned, but it certainly makes sense to keep a close eye on things. So we will continue to do this: monitor the situation closely and decide together with experts what to do if the worst comes to the worst. “, he said.

He also shared a graph showing that wastewater analyses all over Austria have come back with less viral material – a sign that the virus is less prevalent overall, new mutations or not.

Mask obligation to stay at least until July 8th

Austria currently has very few coronavirus restrictions in place. However, there are 3G (vaccinated, recovered, or tested) rules for entry in the country, some measures for visitation to hospitals and care units, and, most generally felt by the broader population, a mask mandate in some indoor areas.

READ ALSO: Austria to keep masks only in ‘essential places’ from April 16th

Those who visit or work in essential trade, such as supermarkets and pharmacies, still have to wear FFP2 masks in these establishments. In addition, the mask mandate is still in place for hospitals, care homes, public transport and their stops, taxis, and government authorities, among a few others.

These requirements have been criticised, as The Local reported. The Austrian Chamber of Commerce called for an end to the requirement and complained about the “unfair” restriction, which falls only to those dealing with essential trade. 

Since April 16th, the federal government has lifted the mask requirements for most indoor areas, including non-essential trade. 

READ ALSO: Austria extends Covid regulations as experts warn of an autumn resurgence

However, Health Minister Johannes Rauch has already rejected the demand, at least for the time being. The minister said that the uniform regulations, including the FFP2 mask obligation, should stay in place at least until July 8th. 

He mentioned that it is important to be “vigilant”, especially concerning the newly emerging omicron variants and possible development. 

Numbers are falling but expected to stabilise

Austria this Thursday reported 5,755 new infections after 157,301 PCR-Tests, according to the Health Ministry.

There are currently 1,077 people hospitalised with Covid-19, 34 fewer than in the previous 24 hours. Additionally, 84 people are in intensive care units due to the disease. 

READ ALSO: Austria recommends Covid booster shot for children aged five and over

The alpine country has recorded 18,222 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, 22 in the last 24 hours.

Just about 68 per cent of the population has a valid vaccination certificate for Covid-19 vaccines, and 54.9 per cent have had their booster shot. 

The Ministry expects that soon the number of cases in Austria will stop falling and gradually reach a stabilisation period, Der Standard reported. Also, in a few days, less than 1,000 corona-infected people would need intensive care or regular beds because of the disease.