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COVID-19 RULES

Lockdowns and restrictions across Europe ‘averted 3 million deaths’

Lockdowns and restrictions on daily life prevented around 3.1 million deaths in 11 European countries, according to a new modelling study published Monday, as most nations tiptoe out of the strict measures to halt the spread of the new coronavirus.

Lockdowns and restrictions across Europe 'averted 3 million deaths'
Members of the Catalan regional police force Mossos d'Esquadra inform tourists about the lockdown in Barcelona on March 15, 2020

Research by Imperial College London, whose scientists are advising the British government on the virus, found that restrictions such as stay-at-home orders had worked to bring the epidemic under control. 

Using European Centre of Disease Control data on deaths in 11 nations in the period up to May 4, they compared the number of observed deaths in the countries against those predicted by their model if no restrictions had been 
imposed.

They estimated that approximately 3.1 million deaths had been averted by the policies.

The 11 nations were: Germany, France, Italy, Britain, Spain, Belgium, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland and Sweden, which did not impose a strict lockdown as seen in other countries.

Researchers also calculated that the interventions had caused the reproduction number — how many people someone with the virus infects — to drop by an average of 82 percent, to below 1.0.

“Our results show that major non-pharmaceutical interventions, and lockdown in particular, have had a large effect on reducing transmission,” the authors said in the study, published in Nature Research.

“Continued intervention should be considered to keep transmission of SARS-CoV-2 under control.”

The researchers estimated that cumulatively between 12 and 15 million people had been infected in the period — or between 3.2 and four percent of the population of the 11 nations.

This fluctuated significantly between countries, with only 710,000 people in Germany thought to have caught the virus, or 0.85 percent of the population. 

That compares with Belgium, with the highest infection rate of the countries at eight percent, and Spain, where some 5.5 percent of the population, or 2.6 million people, were estimated to have been infected. 

'Large health benefits'
 
The authors said that since interventions such as restrictions on public events and school closures were imposed in quick succession, it is difficult to tease out the effect of each one separately. 
 
But they found that lockdown measures taken as a whole did have an identifiable and “substantial” effect, reducing transmission by an estimated 81 percent.  
 
The authors acknowledged that one limitation of their model was that it assumes each measure had the same effect on all countries, whereas in reality “there was variation in how effective lockdown was in different countries”.
 
In a separate study, also published in Nature, researchers from UC Berkeley used a different method — econometric modelling used to assess how policies affect economic growth — to evaluate containment policies in China, South 
Korea, Italy, Iran, France and the United States. 
 
Researchers used data on daily infection rates and the timings of hundreds of localised interventions up until April 6. They then compared infection growth rates before and after those policies were implemented. 
 
By comparing this to a scenario in which no policies had been put in place, they estimated that the interventions may have prevented or delayed around 62 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the six countries.
 
They said this corresponded to averting around 530 million total infections.

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COVID-19 RULES

Austrian court rules certain bans for unvaccinated were ‘unconstitutional’

Austria's constitutional court found that banning unvaccinated people from going to hairdressers or cultural institutions was unconstitutional

Austrian court rules certain bans for unvaccinated were 'unconstitutional'

The Constitutional Court (VfGH) has found a regulation which stopped people from going to hairdressers in the second lockdown for the unvaccinated was unconstitutional and, therefore, illegal.

However, the Court of Justice did confirm it was admissible to distinguish between people with and without 2G evidence (proof they had recovered from or been vaccinated against Covid-19), meaning the lockdown for the unvaccinated was itself legal.

READ ALSO: Four options: These are Austria’s autumn Covid lockdown plans

As there were exceptions to the lockdown, allowing people without vaccinations to leave their homes to “cover the necessary basic needs of daily life”, this should have included trips to the hairdressers as part of these “basic needs” on a long term, the court ruled.

It clarified that the rules were at first supposed to last for 10 days, but as the lockdown got extended several times, lasting a total of 11 weeks, the “basic needs” evolved and should have included hairdresser visits.

According to the Constitutional Court, it was also illegal for the government to ban unvaccinated people from entering cultural institutions in autumn 2021.

In this case, the reason was that people were still allowed to go to church and other places of religion, which the court found was “in violation of equality”.

READ ALSO: LATEST: The Covid rules across Austria from August 2022

The court found the ban on entering sports facilities ordered by the Minister of Health during the first lockdown in March and April 2020 was also unlawful, as there was not sufficient justification, broadcaster ORF reported.

Strict Covid-19 measures

Austria was one of the countries which imposed several lockdown periods during the pandemic, as The Local reported. While some were aimed at the entire population, more recently, only those who didn’t get vaccinated against Covid-19 were prevented from going out of their homes without a justification (such as grocery shopping or emergencies).

The country had also imposed a Covid-19 vaccination mandate, but that was scrapped after new variants of the virus evolved into less severe cases of the disease, the government said.

Currently, there are few coronavirus restrictions in place. You can check out all the measures across Austria here.

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