So far, the regulation of the possibility of intervention at meetings in the Epidemics Act with the phrase “confluence of large crowds” was formulated somewhat vaguely. The amendment now stipulates that in future at least four people will be referred to as an event. In this context, the Ministry of Health announced that there would continue to be no controls in the private sector.
“Not acceptable” for NEOS
For NEOS health spokesman Gerald Loacker, the new regulation is “not acceptable”. Above all, Loacker was “shocked” that the amendment could impose nightly exit restrictions even if contact tracking no longer worked.
“Health Minister Anschober has apparently learned nothing from twelve months of the pandemic. His only answer to the pandemic is apparently lockdown, ”Loacker said in a written statement to the APA. NEOS Vice Club boss Nikolaus Scherak expressed himself similarly on Twitter: Because the government did not do its “homework”, people would be “locked up” at home.
FPÖ boss Norbert Hofer also strictly rejected the new regulation. This is to prevent people on the street from demanding the resignation of the Chancellor, said Hofer. When asked, Hofer expressly welcomed the fact that his club boss Herbert Kickl wants to speak at the upcoming coronavirus demos at the weekend.
Rendi-Wagner criticizes the government’s “lack of plan”
The SPÖ chairman Pamela Rendi-Wagner saw the same thing. It would be the government’s job to fight the pandemic. Instead, she is relaxing despite the increasing numbers of intensive care patients and, on the other hand, planning legal rules for easier movement restrictions. This shows the coalition’s lack of plan. This is just loosening up into a “third wave”. It would even have to be tightened if the numbers go up further.
Criticism of mandatory professional group tests
According to the draft of the amendment, teachers will also be subject to changes. In future, you will have to take part in the weekly occupational group tests. The possibility of teaching with an FFP2 mask as an alternative is thus eliminated. In practice, the refusal to take the test would in future be considered a violation of service law, according to the APA from the Ministry of Education. The possible consequences range from instruction to dismissal.
According to the Ministry of Health, a change in the obligation to test for teachers is currently not yet up to date. The amendment, the draft of which is still under review until March 9, is only intended to create the legal basis. This would only come into play with a corresponding ordinance, and this is not imminent, they emphasized to the APA.
Rendi-Wagner sees the occupational group tests as an important component in combating the pandemic. But you assume that the government will find an understanding with employee and employer representatives before such a change, said the SPÖ boss at a press conference Thursday morning. Hofer sees it differently, he spoke of a “compulsory test”. The government has always said that the tests are voluntary, so have “lied” to the population.
Anschober “alarmed” in view of increasing numbers
Meanwhile, the current data from the “Covid forecast consortium”, which predict an Austria-wide 7-day incidence of 228 for the coming week, Anschober) “alarms”. The situation with the almost nationwide dominant, more contagious variant B.1.1.7, which was first detected in Great Britain, and the correspondingly increasing number of cases reminded him of last autumn. Whether the possible opening steps will be made will be evaluated by March 15th.
Above all, B.1.1.7 must be viewed as a “pandemic within a pandemic”, said Anschober in an online press conference on Thursday. While the spread of the “wild type” is under control with the previous containment measures, this is different with B.1.1.7, according to the managing director of Gesundheit Österreich GmbH, Herwig Ostermann.
Expanded test capacities are not the reason
Contrary to some suspicions, the current increase in the number of cases is not due to the recently significantly expanded test capacities: We are dealing with an “actual increase” in the number of infections that threatens to affect hospitals.
By March 17, researchers predict that around 1,500 people with Covid-19 will be in normal care. Around 420 people are expected to receive intensive treatment by the middle of the month. It is therefore important “to create a corresponding trend reversal as quickly as possible,” said Ostermann.
In view of these figures, the health minister warned against a “repeat of autumn”. The 2,324 new infections recorded on Thursday were “a lot” – as was the almost constant growth of over 2,000 infections daily, according to Anschober. On March 10, the forecast would land an additional 3,200 cases per day.
“Unfortunately, the rudder is pointing in the wrong direction”
“Unfortunately, the rudder is pointing in the wrong direction,” said the minister. If it is not possible to reduce the numbers or at least stabilize them, “a dramatic situation threatens”. The question of whether the opening steps promised on Monday could actually be taken during the month under such circumstances, Anchober left open. An evaluation will take place on March 15th.
Until then, “everything must be done to ensure that last November does not repeat itself”. The prerequisites for this are not least due to the coming higher temperatures and the vaccinations, with which you can now accelerate, but these days are much better than in autumn.