Austria health minister quits citing exhaustion and threats

Amanda Previdelli
Amanda Previdelli - [email protected] • 4 Mar, 2022 Updated Fri 4 Mar 2022 10:51 CEST
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Austrian Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein has resigned, saying he could no longer give 100 percent. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Wolfgang Mückstein called it quits on Thursday, saying constant threats from Covid sceptics were "extremely burdensome", making him the second Austrian Health Minister to resign in one year citing the burden of the job.

Austria's Health Minister, Wolfgang Mückstein (Greens), on Thursday announced his resignation from the job, just 11 months after taking over. 

He will be replaced by Vorarlberg state councillor Johannes Rauch from the same party, ORF reports.

Mückstein said that the job could only be done when one could give 100 per cent, which he hasn't been able to do anymore.

He mentioned that managing the pandemic is a "big responsibility" and that not all were happy with his decisions. In addition, Mückstein said the threats he and his family have received from Covid sceptics were "extremely burdensome".

"No one can stand that for long", Mückstein declared, mentioning the stress caused by needing police protection outside of his apartment at all times. 

Second resignation in less than a year

This is not the first time an Austrian health minister has resigned during the pandemic.

Mückstein's predecessor, Rudolf Anschober, resigned last April, citing the toll working in the ministry during a pandemic. "15 months has felt like 15 years", Anschober said at the time. 

Last April, Austria was in the early weeks of a vaccination campaign that would prove a challenge on its own. The country had more than 9,700 deaths recorded and had been through controversial lockdowns that were among the strictest in Europe. 

Anschober's successor Mückstein oversaw the vaccination campaign, which has taken the country to a better position despite the pandemic not being over yet, he said.

But the months that followed also brought new challenges of vaccine hesitancy, the vaccine mandate law and weekly protests against the government and its measures.  

Austria now has almost 15,000 recorded deaths. Less than 70 percent of its population is fully vaccinated, one of the lowest rates in Western Europe.

Mückstein's resignation comes as Austria prepares for extensive reopening steps.

This month, the country, except for the capital Vienna, is set to drop all entry requirements for restaurants and life in general, allowing people to participate in social events and enter places without showing proof that they are vaccinated, recovered or tested, the 3G rule.

READ MORE: Will Austria’s vaccine mandate go ahead?

However, the announcement was criticised by some specialists, who claimed opening measures were coming too soon while Austria still averages more than 25,000 new Covid-19 cases per day.

During his speech, however, Mückstein didn't mention the reopening steps or criticism, instead highlighting that his only goal was to protect lives and the health structure in Austria.

New minister to be Johannes Rauch

After Mückstein's resignation, Green party leader Werner Kogler said the new health minister will be Vorarlberg state councilor Johannes Rauch.

Yesterday, the vice-chancellor said he would propose Rauch as the most suitable successor to the Green party. The politician's inauguration is expected to take place early next week.

While Mückstein is a doctor and is expected to resume work in the field, Rauch is a career politician who was the Green spokesman in Vorarlberg for over 20 years and party representative (Klubobmann) for ten.

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Amanda Previdelli 2022/03/04 10:51

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