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COVID-19

Covid-19: Austria among highest hospitalisation rates in Europe

As the country reopens and lifts restrictions, not only the number of new infections is rising, but hospitalisation rates as well

Gargle tests in Vienna. Photo: ALEX HALADA / AFP
Gargle tests in Vienna. Photo: ALEX HALADA / AFP

Austria is currently the sixth country with the highest hospitalisation rates, reporting 332 Covid-19 patients in hospitals per million people.

Information from Our World in Data puts Austria only behind Lithuania (646), Latvia (566), Slovakia (477), Estonia (473), and Bulgaria (460), though these countries have last updated their numbers on March 6th. 

The alpine country is followed by France, with a rate of 310 patients per million residents, Hungary (307), Romania (307), and Denmark (263).

In less than two months, data shows Austria’s hospitalisation rates have almost tripled. 

Neighbouring countries such as the Czech Republic, Switzerland, and Italy have fared much better, with hospitalisation rates of 207, 194, and 149, respectively.

READ MORE: Could Austria’s mandatory Covid-19 vaccination return in autumn?

Reopening steps

This comes as the country lifted most Covid-19 restrictions almost two weeks ago. 

Since March 5th, Austrians don’t need to show a Covid pass with proof of vaccination, recovery, or negative test in most establishments. The mask mandate has also mostly fallen throughout the country. Except for the capital Vienna, that is, where Mayor Michael Ludwig (SPÖ) has kept the 2G rule for gastronomy and general mask requirements for indoor areas.

As the country reached record Covid case numbers, many politicians in the federal government defended the reopening steps by mentioning that the wide-spread omicron variant was “milder” than its predecessors. 

READ MORE: Record Covid case numbers: How close is Austria to a new lockdown?

Responding to criticism, the Health Ministry said that not only the new number of cases should be considered, but also the proportion of symptomatic patients and the burden on hospitals. 

Top three

More than 300,000 people were infected with the Covid-19 in the past week in Austria – giving the Alpine state one of the highest infection rates in Europe. 

According to data from Johns Hopkins University and the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), only Iceland and Liechtenstein had a higher incidence of infections per 100,000 inhabitants in a comparison of 46 European countries. 

However, some European countries have low rates of testing in comparison to Austria, broadcaster ORF noted. 

Yesterday, however, the federal government announced residents in Austria will be entitled to five PCR and five antigen tests per month, in a departure from the unlimited free tests that are currently available. 

Additionally, from March 21st, close contacts of a positive case will no longer have to quarantine completely and will be able to go to work or shopping while wearing a mask, but not to restaurants or events.

Useful vocabulary

Infektionszahlen – infection numbers

Spitzenfeld – leading group

CoVFälle – Covid cases

Nachbarstaaten – neighboring states

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TRAVEL NEWS

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.”

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