Austria’s Covid Measures Act has been extended until the middle of 2023, rather than expiring at the end of June 22nd.
The extension was decided on Wednesday in the National Council – with only the opposition parties FPÖ and NEOS opposing the measure.
Even though the country has lifted most Covid measures, including mandatory use of FFP2 masks and even lockdowns, the law provides the legal basis for them. This means that the government will still be able to bring back measures such as restrictions on gatherings and lockdowns to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) said during the parliament meeting it was necessary to extend the legislation as a precautionary measure in case there was another Covid surge in the autumn.
Rauch defended adjustments to the testing and vaccination strategy and preparation with sufficient medicines for the coming months.
Even if the situation is currently “very good”, as many people have recovered, the minister pleaded for the booster vaccination in the autumn.
“The good protection provided by vaccination will decrease at a time when a wave must be expected again”, he warned.
Fears of an autumn wave
The extension comes as a preparation for a much-feared Autumn wave, with experts alerting that cases may soar again as vaccine (and infection) immunity goes down.
Austrian virologists have shared their concerns in local media and on social media.
Immunologist Andres Bergthaler from the Medical University of Vienna shared a working paper calling for readiness for the autumn and winter months.
„Covid-19: Szenarien für Herbst/Winter 2022 – und darüber hinaus“ https://t.co/spVIrwbo4R
Ein Arbeitspapier (v1.0) über die Ziele des Pandamiemanagements, Szenarien-abhängige und unabhängige Annahmen, nötige Infrastruktur und die Wichtigkeit von Kommunikation. #preparedness 1/3
— Andreas Bergthaler ☮️ (@abergthaler) April 27, 2022
In the paper, several Austrian researchers ask for a strategy to maintain and, if necessary, expand testing capabilities and vaccination offers.
However, they add that the vaccine mandate should only be brought back in the “most unfavourable scenario”.
Austria has suspended its mandatory Covid-19 vaccination law, as reported, stating that the “less severe” Omicron wave and lowering numbers did not justify the implementation. However, the law is set to be reevaluated in May.
On Wednesday, April 27th, Austria reported 8,239 new coronavirus infections after 240,426 PCR-Tests, according to the Health Ministry.
The country has 1,452 people hospitalised with Covid-19, 37 fewer than the day before, and 111 people were being treated in intensive care units. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Austria registered 18,100 deaths due to the disease.
Some 68 per cent of the total population have a valid vaccination certificate, and 54.6 per cent have received the third dose of the Covid vaccine.