Five possible winter scenarios for Covid-19 in Austria

A new study by MedUni Vienna has revealed five possible scenarios for how the Covid-19 pandemic could play out in Austria during the next autumn and winter season.

People line up to be tested for Covid-19 in Austria
Austrian scientists have identified five possible scenarios for the Covid-19 pandemic in the winter. (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)

As the Covid-19 pandemic enters the seasonal relaxation stage – like the past two years – Austrian scientists are already working towards next autumn and winter to predict likely scenarios.

This coincides with the onset of winter in the Southern Hemisphere where a fifth wave of infections is sweeping across South Africa due to Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5, although there are no indications that the new variants lead to a more severe course of Covid-19.

Meanwhile, a working paper by a team of researchers at MedUni Vienna details five possibilities for how the pandemic could progress past the summer months.

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

The first scenario is the one that everyone is hoping for – the pandemic is over. In this case, the symptoms of Covid-19 would resemble a cold and any new variants would result in mild illness.

Scenario two is that we reach the endemic phase of the pandemic. This would mean there was stable immunity in the population with only slight increases in infections every one or two years.

The third scenario is similar to number two and would involve a slow transition to the endemic phase. This would result in high levels of infection during the cold season and an ongoing burden on the health system.

However, scenario four has two parts – A and B.

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

In 4A, the pandemic would continue to be dangerous with the emergence of new variants similar to Delta and the possibility of more lockdowns.

In 4B, the pandemic would escalate due to the virus mutating and becoming even more dangerous. In this scenario, a new adapted vaccine would have to be developed.

At this stage, all scenarios are on the table, although countries in the Southern Hemisphere, like South Africa, are not showing any signs of an escalation of Covid-19 so far.

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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.”