From April 1st until at least April 6th, the eastern Austrian states of Vienna, Lower Austria and Burgenland will go into a strict coronavirus lockdown to tackle rising infection rates and hospitalisations.
Some of the measures are set to expire on April 6th, while others will continue for the foreseeable future.
The announcement was made on Wednesday evening at a press conference by Health Minister Rudolf Anschober together with Governors Michael Ludwig (Vienna), Johanna Mikl-Leitner (Lower Austria) and Hans-Peter Doskozil (Burgenland).
The following maps show data from infection rates to hospitalisations, illustrating why the situation is particularly dire in the east of the country.
The numbers do however show a serious problem across much of the country, giving rise to the possibility that similar measures will come into effect in more states in the coming weeks.
Anschober said when making the announcement that the measures may be extended across the country if infections continue to rise.
“Eastern Austria is a pilot region, it could easily be the same in other federal states.”
All figures come from official Austrian government sources.
Austria’s seven-day infection rate average – the metric used to explain rises and falls in coronavirus infections – has risen significantly in recent weeks.
Across the country, the average of infections per 100,000 people is 247 – up from 165.8 just three weeks ago.
As can be seen in the following map, the situation is particularly dire in the east of the country.
Vienna’s average is above 300, with 307.1 new infections over the past seven days.
Lower Austria’s infection rate is 283.4, while the number is 282.6 in Burgenland.
The only other state to have similar numbers is Salzburg with 299.2.
At the other end of the spectrum, Vorarlberg – where restaurants have been allowed to open since March 15th – has a rate of 93.2.
Another major reason for the strict new measures has been the concerning situation in Austria’s hospitals.
Hospital capacity (non-ICU) is at just under a third (31.9 percent) across Austria,
The situation is especially serious in the centre of the country.
Hospitals are at more than 50 percent capacity in Styria, with capacity also high in Salzburg (48.3) and Upper Austria (46.4).
Unlike with ICU capacity (see below), the numbers are lower in the east of the country.
While Burgenland has a high occupancy rate of 43 percent, the rate is less high in Lower Austria (34.5) and Vienna (21.7 percent).
ICU capacity rate
A shortage of intensive care beds in Vienna due to coronavirus patients means some planned operations will have to be postponed, according to a spokeswoman for the Vienna Health Association, the Wiener Zeitung newspaper reports.
Das ist die Situation der #COVID19 Intensivbetten in #Wien. Wir haben mit 165 belegten Betten den Höchststand von 162 vom 21.11.2020 übertroffen. Alleine in den letzten 2 Tagen kamen 27 ICU-Patienten dazu. Netto, wohlgemerkt. D.h. übers Wochenende wurde >2 neue ICUs gefüllt.
— Wolfgang Hagen 😷 🚴♂️🇪🇺 #ZeroCovid (@docjosiahboone) March 22, 2021
In Vienna, 54.3 percent of ICU beds are currently occupied – but nothing like the 72 percent occupancy in Burgenland.
Lower Austria has an occupancy rate of 55.8 percent.
One sign of hope is the rising vaccination rate, although this remains relatively stagnant in much of the country.
The impact of the vaccination drive in Tyrol – which sought to focus on the eastern state’s outbreak of coronavirus mutations – can be seen, with the state recording more than 17 percent of people getting at least one shot.
The next highest is Vorarlberg, with 13.2 percent.
Styria is vaccinating the slowest (9.57 percent), followed by Vienna with 10.3 percent.
Austria this week crossed the milestone of one million vaccinated people.
Will this really end on the 6th?
Not necessarily – in fact, things could get a little stricter.
Ludwig told the press that if these measures did not work in curbing rising infection rates and hospitalisations, an extended lockdown would be imposed.
“If we don’t see results in a timely manner, we will have to go beyond this package,” says the Mayor of Vienna Michael Ludwig.
“Eastern Austria is much more confronted with the ‘British variant’, which is also related to the neighbouring countries Slovakia and the Czech Republic, where the variant is widespread. Vorarlberg is doing better there, the British variant is currently less widespread in Switzerland and Germany”, said Ludwig.
“Until now we believed that school is less affected. We now see it differently. Not everyone should go back to school immediately, the risk of infection there is very high,” says Ludwig.