Infection Numbers – The Fourth Wave Dilemma

There are no longer too many options. But you have to react quickly. The corona numbers have skyrocketed over the past few days, with 9,388 new infections across Austria on Friday, a value that is no longer far removed from the previous pandemic maximum: almost exactly a year ago, on November 13, 2020, there were 9,588 new infections just a little more new infections. The hospitals have also been filling up quickly recently.

The repertoire of politics to push the numbers down and to avoid a renewed overload of the hospitals has already largely been exhausted with the step-by-step plan of the turquoise-green federal government. Lockdowns like those in the first waves of pandemics, on the other hand, are politically almost impossible. Another massive burden on companies such as the national economy through closed shops, restaurants and canceled events would have far-reaching economic consequences.

Emotionally, too, many limits seem to have already been reached with regard to further lockdown ideas. Mental illness has risen sharply over the course of the pandemic. Children and young people who, in addition to social isolation, also had to struggle with school and university closings, are disproportionately affected. The fact that ex-Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) had declared the pandemic for vaccinated people to be over in the summer probably contributed to the increased expectations. The current figures clearly refute the ex-Chancellor’s statement.

Low vaccination rate

The motivation of many vaccinated people to submit to restrictive restrictions again is likely to be within narrow limits. And what applies to lockdowns also essentially applies to the more lenient measures such as contact restrictions. During the third wave in the first half of the year, the willingness of the population to adhere to the restrictions had gradually decreased. Above all, however, the federal government has made it quite clear that there should only be new contact restrictions for those who have not been vaccinated.

In general, the domestic measures are not exactly lax in an international comparison. What distinguishes Austria from other countries in Central, Northern and Western Europe, on the other hand, is the vaccination rate. For the front runners Portugal and Spain this is 87 and 80 percent respectively. Scandinavian countries such as Denmark, Norway and Sweden ended all pandemic measures weeks ago with significantly higher vaccination coverage.

Austria, on the other hand, is lagging behind with a stagnating vaccination rate of currently 62.9 percent and is therefore in last place in a European comparison, ahead of the Southeastern European countries.

And so it is becoming increasingly clear: The home route will have to lead above all to increasing the vaccination rate. Or at least trying to bring about one.

2G-Regel before doors

This was also shown on Friday at a press conference. Tourism Minister Elisabeth Köstinger, in agreement with Salzburg’s Governor Wilfried Haslauer and his Tyrolean counterpart Günther Platter (all ÖVP), guaranteed the tourism industry a winter season. Due to the high number of infections, however, measures are needed. And uniform throughout Austria, says Platter. One will advise whether it makes sense to “skip a step” in the federal government’s step-by-step plan, said Platter, referring to the evening federal-state meeting to tighten measures.

This took place after this newspaper went to press. In advance, however, the “skipping” of a stage announced by Platter was already apparent, which means: Introduction of a 2G rule, where 3G had previously applied. Only those who have been vaccinated and those who have recovered will then have access to restaurants and services that are close to the body. Mayor Michael Ludwig (SPÖ) announced this measure for Vienna on Thursday.

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