One year of the coronavirus crisis: The new world using the example of Bad Gleichenberg


8,289 people have died from or with the corona virus in Austria since the beginning of March last year (as of Tuesday). At times, a third of the intensive care beds in hospitals were occupied by Covid 19 patients. Laboratory-confirmed cases of illness were or are in total 442,863.

One of them is Karl Cvörnjek, who is already through the worst – although it is still sometimes difficult for him to speak. He must always pay attention to the correct breathing. If he doesn’t make it, his lungs cramp up and he has to cough. A portable oxygen device pumps air into his nose. Without this technical assistance, speaking would be too strenuous for him.

“So bad together”

 The  55-year-old Styrian is recovering in Bad Gleichenberg from the consequences of a serious coronavirus illness with just under two months in hospital. “©

 The  best thing for me was when I managed to get on the chair on my own, clean myself up and then go back to bed.” It took him 45 minutes – “because it doesn’t go faster, you’re so bad you are together “. Before the coronavirus he was “actually pumperlgsund”, as he says.

Bad Gleichenberg: A year in crisis

Coronavirus crisis for one year – shown using the example of Bad Gleichenberg. ©

 The  schools were empty, the coaches in the garage – and the clinic became a Covid-19 rehab station

Six weeks in the intensive care unit


 The  entrepreneur fell ill with the virus in October 2020, although he had always been careful and only ever met people outdoors, except for the one time when it was raining. One time was enough to get infected. What started as a cough ended with six weeks of intensive care in the LKH Graz and almost with death.

For two weeks, Cvörnjek was artificially ventilated, but not intubated. “©

 The  doctors were very honest and advised me to wear a breathing mask if I could take it,” says the family man. ©

 The  mask pressed so hard on his skin that he got flesh wounds on his face. But it increased his chances of survival because it saved him the artificial deep sleep.

29 kilograms lost

Cvörnjek remained fully conscious and saw everything: How his family and friends sent him photos and perseverance slogans on their cell phones while others next to him died in the intensive care unit. His wife was advised to seek terminal care. But finally Cvörnjek survived. He lost 29 kilos, his physical condition is, according to his own statements, catastrophic.

Covid-19 survivor Karl Cvörnjek

ORF/Martin Gerhartl


 The  55-year-old Karl Cvörnjek almost did not survive Covid-19

Even marathon runners without breath

“We have already had marathon runners here who couldn’t go up a floor or two after their illness,” says Karl Horvath, medical director of the Bad Gleichenberg Clinic. ©

 The  rehabilitation program started in June after the first lockdown. ©

 The  house specializes in the therapy of lung diseases.

One third of the 150 beds are now occupied by post-Covid 19 patients, and the trend is rising. ©

 The  youngest patient was just 30 years old, the oldest 86. ©

 The  severity of the symptoms is completely different, says Horvath: “Some are so severely affected that they become breathless and need oxygen even when doing supposedly simple activities such as brushing their teeth. “

TV notice

A longer report from Bad Gleichenberg can be seen on Tuesday at 9:05 pm on ORF2 in the “Report”.


 The re are no tourists or schoolgirls


 The  economic consequences for the 5,300-resident community are enormous: ©

 The  number of overnight stays has fallen by a third – from 293,927 in 2019 to 194,005 last year. This reflects the overall development in Austria: in the summer season alone, the number of overnight stays across the country fell by 42.6 percent.

The health resort and school town of Bad Gleichenberg in the Styrian volcanic region

ORF/Martin Gerhartl


 The  health resort and school town of Bad Gleichenberg in the Styrian volcanic region

But not only the tourists are missing. Distance learning also meant that 1,200 schoolchildren and students from tourism and technical colleges were lost. ©

 The  lively health resort and school location suddenly became deserted. ©

 The  main square is still in hibernation today.

“It won’t affect us”

“Before the first lockdown, we were still of the opinion: This will not affect us in Bad Gleichenberg,” recalls Mayor Christine Siegel of the ÖVP. Similar to the federal government, she also ruled with a green vice mayor. In the local council elections in the summer, the ÖVP gained an absolute majority.

In the fall there was a major outbreak in a retirement home. Now the numbers are stable and low, most recently with around four new infections a day. ©

 The  vaccination has already been completed in the nursing homes, but the population has become tired, as in many places. “Burned out”, as the local boss calls it, “because it has just been taking so long and there is no personal interaction. I have already heard from some: I am lonely. I’m alone.”

Mayor Christine Siegel (ÖVP) of Bad Gleichenberg

ORF/Martin Gerhartl

Christine Siegel rules as ÖVP mayor with an absolute majority

Creeping loneliness


 The re is a lack of guests and sociability, especially the Wolf family. She runs a coach company including a tavern in neighboring Trautmannsdorf. For years, Manfred Wolf chauffeured the spa guests to and from the restaurant with his own shuttle bus. ©

 The re was live music between Brettljause, apple juice and Uhudler. ©

 The  tavern was full.

Now everything is different, the tavern has been closed since the national holiday. Many regular guests are older than 80 years and belong to the high-risk group, says Martina Wolf. She knows of at least two guests who died of the virus. Many hardly leave the house for fear of being infected.

Empty wine tavern

ORF/Martin Gerhartl

Where there used to be cheerful wine taverns, the dust now gathers

95 percent drop in sales

“Some write us letters over and over again,” says Manfred Wolf. His father founded the Wolf Reisen bus company in 1965. ©

 The  son took over in 1999 and expanded the fleet to six buses. ©

 The  group trips lead from Lourdes via Italy to Lake Neusiedl. Often they end up in the tavern. But everything has stood still since autumn.


 The  entire industry with around 800 coach operators and 5,500 employees was hit hard across Austria. Representatives speak of a decline in sales of 95 percent. A good coach costs 350,000 to 400,000 euros and lasts an average of six years. “Of course, the costs continue to run, the buses are getting older, the leasing payments are due,” says the 56-year-old.

He received the fixed cost subsidy I and a bridging loan, but the repayment installments start in spring. It is more than questionable whether the coaches will start rolling again. “Probably only with the vaccination,” believes Wolf.

Bus operator family Wolf in front of coaches

ORF/Martin Gerhartl


 The  Wolf family can no longer afford to maintain the stationary coaches

Shift work in the tourism schools

In the Wolf family, the son should take over the business one day. Next year he will start his training at one of the tourism schools in Bad Gleichenberg. ©

 The  private schools are the only ones where there is a kind of normality again: Last Monday, 240 students returned to the school’s own campus with boarding school.

For the time being, lessons will take place weekly in shifts. Stefanie Stenitzer is nevertheless happy: ©

 The  high school graduate has lived and studied with her classmates for the past four years until the lockdown separated them.

Tourismusschulen Bad Gleichenberg

ORF/Martin Gerhartl

Thanks to distance learning and homeschooling, the tourism schools have been almost empty for months

Matura with question mark

It was not easy to teach yourself the material, says the 18-year-old, who is taking her high school diploma in May. ©

 The n there is the uncertainty: “Who knows, when the numbers rise again, whether this can even take place as planned.” If everything works out, she wants to start studying in the fall. And now to find a job in tourism? ©

 The  student calls this “certainly a challenge.”

School principal Peter Kospach is more optimistic: ©

 The re were no problems in the first Coronavirus summer 2020, all students were successfully placed. Even now he is confident. A quick opening of the catering industry would certainly help.

Hope to open up with tests

Mayor Siegel also demands this. She advocates a gentle opening with entry tests. If she has her way, the tests could also cost something. People would long to sit comfortably together in the coffee house or in the tavern again. Hotels should also be able to reopen soon with appropriate security concepts.

Empty pub garden with seating area

ORF/Martin Gerhartl


 The  Bad Gleichenbergers have high hopes for the opening of their pub gardens

“Will never be the same again”

At the Bad Gleichenberg Clinic, patient Cvörnjek observes the opening debate with skepticism: “I absolutely understand that people have this desire for normality. But we mustn’t forget one thing: the government makes the lockdown out of jokes and frolic and these regulations aren’t. ”Tomorrow, the 55-year-old will be discharged from the rehab clinic after four weeks of therapy. He has no false hopes: “Too much in my lungs is damaged. I said goodbye to the thought that I would be the old man again. ”

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year coronavirus crisis world Bad Gleichenberg


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