What was announced by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz as the “Safe Christmas” project will now be implemented starting this weekend, namely testing the general population with rapid antigen tests. Instead of central coordination by the armed forces, the federal states are now more or less handling the mass test themselves. The army partially (Vorarlberg) only provides the tests, but elsewhere (Vienna) it is very much involved in the organization. According to the Ministry of Defense, 2,000 soldiers and civil servants will be deployed in Vienna alone, with a total of 5,400 helpers from the armed forces. Basically, the military command is the hinge to the health officials of the countries.
Vienna, Tyrol and Vorarlberg will kick off this Friday, but other federal states will also start their first screenings this weekend, with pedagogues. There are also big differences in implementation.
Vienna: December 4th to 13th
In Vienna, the population test extends over ten days. Nowhere else is such a long period planned. Dozens of test lanes will be set up in three large halls (Messe, Marx, Stadthalle); in the Messe am Prater there will be 88 each in two halls. Testing takes place from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., online pre-registration is required. The software comes from the federal government and should be delivered by December 2nd.
This is to avoid that many people have direct contact, and the halls also ensure air circulation in around 15 minutes. In order to increase your own safety, an FFP2 mask can be worn, a face mask is mandatory. After the test you have to wait for the result in a separate area, which takes a few minutes. Anyone who is positive is considered “suspected of being contagious”. A gargle sample is taken on site and a PCR test is initiated, as antigen tests sometimes also give false positive results. It takes a day or two before the result of the PCR is available. Those who tested positive have to isolate themselves immediately, and everyone receives an FFP2 mask before they go home.
Lower Austria: December 12th and 13th
Lower Austria expects 800,000 tests. In addition, there are tens of thousands of teachers who will be in their turn on December 5th and 6th, followed by the police immediately. “Owners of second homes are also invited,” says Anton Heinzl, spokesman for State Health Councilor Ulrike Königsberger-Ludwig (SPÖ) to the “Wiener Zeitung”. This would relieve Vienna. The number of people with a second residence in Lower Austria is estimated at around 150,000.
As in Vienna, online registration will also be available in Lower Austria, starting December 7th. Lower Austria relies on its own online tool because they did not want to wait for what the federal government had promised. The processing in the state will be done by the municipalities, which will also send information about the mass tests by post. It is expected with 15,000 emergency services in the mass tests. Information about the test result is provided online. As in Vienna, tests are carried out with PCR.
Burgenland: December 10th to 15th
As elsewhere, in Burgenland, educators kick off the test, with tests being carried out in federal schools, but also in individual other stations. The population tests are still being planned. Since they don’t start until December 10th, there are still a few days left. One reckons with up to 180,000 people. But there will be several test stations in all districts, that much is clear. There are still questions unanswered with regard to follow-up tests, and Burgenland wants to use the federal government’s online tool.
Styria: December 12th and 13th
Many details are open in Styria, for example on the question of post-tests and test stations that are currently being discussed in the districts with the municipalities. It is only clear when the tests will take place, namely on December 12th and 13th. The fact that, as in other federal states, there will be an additional working day is not entirely excluded. In Styria, the federal government’s online tool is also used.
Upper Austria: December 11-14
Due to the logistical challenge, Upper Austria extended the mass tests to December 11th to 14th. As in Lower Austria, teachers and police officers in Upper Austria are examined beforehand. In Upper Austria, the mass tests are offered to people from the age of 6 and people with a secondary residence are also tested. Those who are in the state for work or study can also take advantage of the offer.
What is certain is that you can register online. The exact schedule was still pending on Monday afternoon. If you don’t have internet access, you can come straight to a test station. In Upper Austria, too, a PCR test is carried out if the rapid antigen test is positive. Quarantine at home must be observed until the test result is available.
Salzburg: December 12th and 13th
Salzburg largely uses the 534 polling stations as an infrastructure, the educators will be tested in barracks this weekend. The “polling stations” on December 12th and 13th will be open between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., registration in advance is not planned. There should be one test station for every 1,000 inhabitants. We are working on our own solution for the city of Salzburg. Unlike in other federal states, another antigen test is carried out in Salzburg (from 7 p.m. on the same day) for the post-test in order to rule out false positive results, although this is viewed critically by the Berlin virologist Christian Drosten, who validated the tests because the “false positives repeat themselves at a relatively high rate,” as he said in the NDR podcast.
Carinthia: December 11th and 13th
A third day was added in Carinthia, the preparations have not yet been completed. The country has called in medical personnel, 1,100 have come forward so far. Carinthia wants to use the federal government’s online registration, the mass test could also be carried out analogously if necessary. A post-PCR test is planned, other details, such as the opening times of the test stations, have yet to be clarified. In principle, every municipality should have a test station. The teachers will be screened in barracks in Carinthia this weekend.
Tyrol: December 4th to 6th
The state of Tyrol does without an online tool and will carry out the mass test similar to an election. All persons registered in Tyrol will receive information about the mass test including a data protection declaration and a form with a barcode by post. This should be completed in advance in order to avoid waiting times in the test stations. The opening times can be chosen by the municipalities themselves. Due to a lack of online registration, it cannot be ruled out that there may be gatherings in off-peak times, especially in cities. Innsbruck uses a kind of “traffic light system” at its three locations with 25 test roads each. The Internet shows in real time how high the rush is.
Vorarlberg: December 4th to 6th
Vorarlberg was the first federal state to tell the government that it wanted to organize everything itself. Preliminary work, such as digitization during testing, helped. The internet registration is self-made and already online. There are a total of 80 test stations that are open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Anyone who registers receives a QR code as confirmation of registration, the test result comes via SMS or can be requested by phone. The registration can also be made for other persons (from 6 years). In the event of a positive result, you have to go back to the test station for a PCR test. In contrast to Tyrol, people who are not registered in Vorarlberg can also be tested.