How widespread the British virus variant is in Austria will be determined in the next week. One of the suspected cases in the Styrian Ausseerland was confirmed on Friday.
Robert Zikmund (ORF) on the deliberations in the BKA
ORF reporter Robert Zikmund reports from the Federal Chancellery, where consultations on the current CoV situation will take place on Saturday.
The government then consults with the social partners. A government press conference is planned for Sunday.
“Until well into February”
If Carinthia’s governor Peter Kaiser (SPÖ) has his way, there is a clear tendency. In view of the new virus mutation, there is no longer any thought of relaxing. For the easing hoped for by many, the risk of the new virus variant spreading quickly is too great, Kaiser said. Rather, the Carinthian governor now expects the lockdown to be extended “well into February”.
The mayor of Vienna, Michael Ludwig (SPÖ), had previously said that he expected further tightening. Ludwig justifies his assumption that the current lockdown will still be tightened with the “dramaturgy of the last few days”. He referred to the suspicion that there were already traces of the much more contagious virus variant B.1.1.7 in Vienna’s wastewater. If something like this finds its way into the media, it probably points to tightening – more on this in wien.ORF.at.
Epidemiologist: School opening on January 25th “very unlikely”
Gerald Gartlehner, epidemiologist at Danube University Krems, considers a school opening on January 25th to be “very unlikely” in view of the CoV situation.
Much indicates that the new virus variant B.1.1.7 is already more widespread in Austria, emphasized the epidemiologist Gerald Gartlehner on Friday in the ZIB2. He considers it “very unlikely” that the schools will be able to go into regular operation on January 25th. Since the British variant is around 50 percent more contagious, if it is widespread, it would also be worth considering tightening the lockdown that has been in place for three weeks. According to Gartlehner, efficient measures would be a limited radius of movement or a home office requirement.
The head of the clinical institute for laboratory medicine at the Vienna General Hospital (AKH), Oswald Wagner, warned against an early relaxation. On the one hand, he referred to the British mutation, on the other hand, instead of going it alone, there was a need for a consistency in the measures in Europe, said Wagner.
For example, many neighboring European countries, such as Germany and the Czech Republic, are currently extending the lockdown rather than loosening it. From his point of view, it would therefore be “dangerous” if Austria went in the other direction and possibly represented the “source of new infections”, said Wagner.
Conceivable relief for trade
If there are easing, then it will be more tentative and temporary. In Austria one could theoretically accommodate the already badly hit trade. According to the APA, the first careful opening steps should be considered here. It is quite conceivable that the higher-quality FFP2 masks and stricter distance rules could play a role in the future.
The “Kurier” reported that the trade had a chance of being able to unlock the doors again on January 25, if customers and staff wore FFP2 masks and stricter distance rules were introduced. Even body-hugging service providers will then be able to work again, but the catering will probably remain closed.
The areas of sport and culture would have to wait further, reported the “Standard”, “and that at least until the final end of the semester break in all federal states: until February 22nd”.
Appeals from business for openness
On Friday, the industry spokesman in the Austrian Chamber of Commerce (WKÖ), Robert Seeber, appealed to the government to open up. It is equipped with proven prevention and hygiene concepts and offers comprehensive tests. If the hotel closings go beyond January 24th, “our demand is very clear: sales compensation for January – we will no longer be able to do with the fixed cost subsidy,” said Seeber.
Government advises on further CoV steps
On Friday evening, the government and provincial governors in Vienna discussed how to proceed in the CoV crisis.
Representatives of the trade also called for the shops to be opened quickly and at the same time to be compensated if the lockdown continued. “We can and want to unlock – and that should happen quickly, because many retail entrepreneurs already have their backs to the wall,” said the chairman of the federal retail division, Rainer Trefelik. In addition, a way should be found as soon as possible for gastronomy, which is particularly closely connected to retail in large shopping streets and inner-city locations, “at least for daytime gastronomy” so that it can reopen.
The trade association also warned against a lengthy lockdown, because such a lockdown would also threaten many jobs in the industry.
Mahrer: “Closure until March unthinkable”
Chamber of Commerce President Harald Mahrer criticized the uncertainties and called for more predictability. He told Ö1 that the economy must continue to be supported by the state if the unlocking does not happen on January 25th. Regarding a possible obligation to wear an FFP2 mask in retail, Mahrer said: “Our suggestion before Christmas” was that retailers open up. If the FFP2 mask is the price for it, “why not, you should implement it immediately”. A “closure by March is completely unthinkable for me,” said Mahrer on Friday.
The NEOS MP and hotelier Sepp Schellhorn did not expect that there would be any opening steps before January 25th. “Because of the number of infections and new virus mutations, it is unlikely that everything will then unlock,” said Schellhorn. But hotels and suppliers needed “at least two weeks’ lead time”, the “semester break in Vienna, the most populous state by far, will begin in two weeks”, says Schellhorn.
FPÖ boss Norbert Hofer spoke out once again against further lockdown measures. It was a mistake to push people out of the public space through the lockdowns, Hofer said in a broadcast. Instead of meeting under controlled conditions in public, they would have met privately without rules.