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COVID-19 STATS

Covid-19: Where are cases rising in Austria?

Since the end of May, Covid-19 cases have been rising again in Austria. Where are the numbers going up and what is causing it?

Covid-19: Where are cases rising in Austria?
Telephone sick leave is back for positive Covid-19 cases in Austria. Photo by Stephane Mahe / Reuters.

After a few months of low Covid-19 figures, the cases are creeping up again in Austria.

Vienna has the highest number of cases with a seven-day incidence rate (cases per 100,000 people) of 335.8, followed by Vorarlberg at 269.5 and Salzburg at 239.2.

Styria has the lowest number of cases with an incidence rate of 117.9.

READ MORE: LATEST: These are the Covid rules in Austria and Vienna from June 2022

The national incidence rate is 217.9 and cases are particularly increasing amongst the over 64 age group, according to the AGES Covid dashboard.

Austria’s Covid forecasting consortium expects a further increase in the number of cases in the coming week as the country’s reproduction number is now at 1.05.

Last week, all federal states were in the green/yellow zone of the Covid traffic light system, which indicates low risk. It is not yet known if the traffic light will now be moved into medium risk for some states.

New Omicron variants BA.4/5 are believed to be responsible for the latest increase with the proportion of these cases at 16 percent. The new sub variants are estimated to be 50 percent more infectious than the previous variants.

READ ALSO: How Austria’s Green Pass rules will change this summer

Experts also believe the virus is spreading more rapidly due to increased travel and social events, as well as the relaxation of the mask requirement and school testing.

It is expected the number of people in hospital beds will rise over the next two weeks, though this will not affect ICU units. 

Change to the Epidemic Act

A new change to the Epidemic Act means that quarantine for those suspected of having Covid may soon become obsolete and replaced with a traffic light system.

People with a confirmed case of Covid will continue to quarantine, broadcaster ORF reports.

The new traffic light system could mean people who cannot demonstrate they are of low epidemiological risk may have to wear masks or keep a distance, stay away from workplaces or stop using public transport. 

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COVID-19 ALERT

Austria to remove quarantine for positive Covid-19 cases

People who test positive for Covid-19 will no longer be required to self-isolate in Austria. Here is what you need to know.

Austria to remove quarantine for positive Covid-19 cases

Austria will remove the mandatory self-isolation requirement for people who test positive for Covid-19 from August 1st, Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) said in a press conference on Tuesday.

People who do not feel sick will be allowed to leave their homes even after a positive Covid-19 test but will have to follow specific requirements, the Austrian federal government said.

“We believe we have a good balance now”, Rauch said.

The so-called “traffic restrictions” mean that those who don’t feel sick will be allowed to leave their homes but must wear an FFP2 mask indoors and outdoors whenever social distancing is not possible.

The health minister said that people who feel sick should call their doctors and ask for a sick leave.

Additionally, there are entry bans in hospitals, nursing and elderly care homes, childcare facilities, elementary schools and daycare centres.

READ ALSO: What are the fines for not wearing masks on Vienna’s public transport?

However, employees of these areas will be allowed to go to work – with the mask mandate – even if they are infected. The only exceptions are professions that are made impossible to do with a mask on, such as speech therapists and musicians.

The restrictions are valid for a maximum of 10 days and as soon as there is a positive antigen test. But a negative PCR test (or PCR test with a CT value over 30 as shown in the laboratory results) allows people to leave the “traffic restrictions” after the fifth day.

In the case of restaurants and bars, people are allowed to go inside, sit and chat but must wear a mask at all times – meaning they cannot consume food and beverages.

BACKGROUND: Will Austria drop quarantine and isolation for positive Covid-19 cases?

“We cannot live this degree of pandemic-related crisis mood for years”, health minister Johannes Rauch said. However, he added that if the situation appears to be getting worse again, the government will impose stricter measures.

He reiterated that the pandemic situation has reached a new stage. “We have the vaccine, we have medication, people are getting milder courses of the disease than before”, Rauch stated.

Protection for risk groups

Labour minister Martin Kocher (ÖVP) said risk groups should be protected, and a specific ordinance is being prepared for workplaces where there are people at risk. 

Kocher said that companies will be able to work out measures such as work-from-home schemes for people at risk. Additionally, workers that belong to vulnerable groups could be exempted from work by presenting a “risk certificate”.

Experts sceptical

SPÖ health spokesperson Philip Kucher said that the government had abandoned the pandemic management, calling a lifting of isolation requirements “irresponsible and dangerous” and demanding a proper pandemic response plan for the autumn.

“A quarantine end for infected people would be dangerous and could bring the health care system back to its limits. An irresponsible and dangerous game”, he wrote in a statement.

READ ALSO: ‘At the limit: Huge spike in Covid hospitalisations and deaths in Austria

Austria’s federal government can set up the minimum requirements for the country, but individual states could impose stricter rules.

Vienna’s Mayor Michael Ludwig said he thought the relaxation was a “step in the wrong direction”, but if quarantine is abolished at a national level, the Austrian capital will not go a different way and keep quarantine, as it would be too difficult to implement with the city receiving 300,000 commuters every day.

Surprisingly the wife of Austria’s Health Minister Johannes Rauch has also criticised the plan to relax quarantine.

Gabi Sprickler-Falschlunger, the Vorarlberg SPÖ state party leader, says it is undoubtedly the “wrong decision” and predicts a sharp rise in Covid-19 infections.

Covid-19 numbers

On Tuesday, Austria recorded 9,213 new coronavirus cases after 125,571 PCR tests, according to the Health Ministry.

There were 1,604 people in hospitals with Covid-19, 56 more than the day before, and 93 in intensive care units (five more than the previous day).

Currently, just 60.2 percent of the population has valid immunological protection – meaning a combination of vaccines and/or recovered status accepted by the federal government.

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