Covid-19 in Austria: Follow the latest developments as they happen

Catch up on the latest Covid-19 news and current statistics in The Local's roundup as they happen throughout the week.

Students vaccine certificates
Students show their vaccine certificates after receiving the Covid jab; new, stricter rules have led to a surge in vaccine take-up. Photo: Alex Halada/AFP

This is the weekly round-up for November 8th-14th. Stay up-to-date with the Covid-19 situation in Austria by clicking here to read our latest news on the pandemic, or clicking here to sign up to our free daily newsletter.

Overview of the Covid-19 situation in Austria

As of November 12th, the 7-day incidence rate (new infections per 100,000 people) was 776. Salzburg (1,236) has the highest incidence, followed by Upper Austria (1,196), while Burgenland (592) and Vienna (443) have the lowest rates. 

A total of 110,931 people in Austria were currently positive for Covid-19 on November 12th, with 2,324 people being treated for the disease in hospital, according to AGES. A total of 428 Covid patients are currently in intensive care

A total of 6,057,367 people (67.8 percent of the total population, and 76.7 percent of the population eligible for vaccination) have received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose, according to the Health Ministry, and 5,804,955 (65 percent) have received two doses as of November 12th.

Rules in place at the moment include an FFP2 mask mandate for everyone on public transport and in all shops and retail venues, and proof of 2G (vaccination or recovery, or negative test) needed for entry to many businesses.

Friday, November 12th

The government has confirmed it will give the go-ahead to a lockdown for people without proof of 2G from Monday. This will apply at least in Salzburg and Upper Austria, and possibly in the whole country, with more details expected on Sunday. Read more on this story here.

Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein has urged people in Austria to return to working from home “wherever possible” due to the rapidly rising spread of Covid-19, in an interview with the Kleine Zeitung.

Mückstein also announced today that he planned to introduce mandatory Covid-19 vaccination for healthcare employees, but did not go into detail about exactly how this will work.

Styria is increasing its vaccine offer in response to increased demand which has led to queues recently. That means it will be possible to get vaccinated seven days a week in all 16 vaccine centres (Impfstraßen). 

Thursday, November 11th

Several sets of rule changes were announced today amid the continued rise in cases and pressure on the healthcare sector.

Upper Austria will bring in a lockdown for unvaccinated residents only, pending the green light from the federal government, the regional governor announced today.

Meanwhile Austria’s so-called Traffic Light Commission has recommended that Salzburg also introduce a lockdown for the unvaccinated. This commission is made up of experts on the coronavirus but does not have the power to impose any restrictions, though regional and national governments often act on its recommendations.

In three regions — Lower Austria, Upper Austria and Tyrol — schools have been moved to a new level of restrictions, meaning masks are required in classes for children over 15 (in the Oberstufe), school trips must be cancelled and external events like parent-teacher conferences must move online.

From midnight, Vienna’s new rules on the 2G/3G rule will come into effect. This means that children aged between 12 and 15 will need to follow the 2.5G rule (vaccination, recovery, or a negative PCR test no older than 48 hours) in venues which are 2G for adults (restaurants, hairdressers, cinemas and so on). Children aged 6 to 12 can follow the 3G rule.

Wednesday, November 10th

In the 24 hours leading to Wednesday afternoon, an all-time high of 11,398 new Covid-19 infections were reported in Austria. It’s the first time this number has passed 10,000.

Will we soon see regional lockdowns? Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein is in crisis talks with the leaders of the two regions with the highest incidence rate, Upper Austria and Salzburg, this afternoon to decide on “quick, decisive and comprehensive” measures. The government has so far said any future lockdowns will not apply to fully vaccinated residents.

Everyone who was vaccinated with one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in Austria will be sent a letter this week reminding them to get a second shot.

Tomorrow the winners of Burgenland’s vaccine lottery will be announced. The prize draw for all vaccinated residents has been credited with the region’s comparatively high vaccination rate.

Tuesday, November 9th

A further 800 police officers will be brought in to check that Austria’s new 2G rule is being followed, in addition to the 4,000 already working on checks, Interior Minister Karl Nehammer has said.

Far-right Freedom Party leader Herbert Kickl has called for a demonstration against the new rules, but has not yet given details of timings. His party is the only one in Austrian parliament that opposes most of the measures aimed at reducing the spread of Covid-19, including the vaccine. 

Monday, November 8th

A new set of strict Covid rules come into effect across Austria from today, meaning that 2G (proof of vaccination or recovery) is required to enter venues including restaurants, hairdressers, events, and cinemas. Until November 6th, there will be a transition period during which a first dose plus a negative PCR test will be sufficient, to allow everyone enough time to get both doses.

The 2G announcement on Friday prompted a surge in demand for vaccines over the weekend, though some regions had limited availability on Sunday, which led to queues and criticism of the authorities.

On Saturday, Austria recorded an all-time high for new daily Covid infections, meaning more new cases were detected within a 24-hour period (9,943) than at any other point since the pandemic began. The previous daily record was 9,586 new cases, reported on November 13th 2020.

How does Austria compare to its neighbours?

The chart below from Our World in Data shows how the number of reported daily Covid cases in Austria compares to those in neighbouring countries.

Note that case numbers depend on rates of testing as well as the prevalence of the virus, so this is not necessarily a true comparison of the spread of the virus in each country.

Do you have a question about Covid-19 in Austria? Contact our editorial team at [email protected] and they will get back to you and do their best to help.

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Austria in shock over doctor’s suicide following anti-vax abuse

Austrians expressed shock and anger this week over the suicide of doctor who had been the target of a torrent of abuse and threats from anti-vaccination protesters.

Austria in shock over doctor's suicide following anti-vax abuse

The bells of Vienna’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral rang out in memory of Lisa-Maria Kellermayr on Monday, and hundreds of people held a candle vigil outside, after the 36-year-old doctor was found dead at her practice on July 29.

She had long been the target of death threats because of her criticism of the widespread anti-lockdown protests of 2021.

An autopsy later confirmed that Kellermayr had taken her own life.

Austria has found itself deeply polarised over coronavirus restrictions and in particular a government policy –subsequently dropped — of making vaccination against the coronavirus compulsory.

Kellermayr — whose practice was in the region of Upper Austria where immunisation rates are particularly low — had frequently complained of the menace.

“For more than seven months, we have been receiving… death threats from those opposed to coronavirus measures and vaccinations,” she wrote at the time, sharing a message from one internet user who said they would pose as a patient in order to attack her and her staff.

She described how she had “invested more than 100,000 euros” ($102,000) in measures to ensure her patients’ safety and was on the brink of bankruptcy.

Then, at the end of June, Kellermayr announced on her professional website that she would not be seeing patients until further notice.

Daniel Landau, who organised a memorial vigil for her in Vienna, said that Kellermayr had become a virtual recluse for several weeks. “She didn’t dare to leave” her office, Landau told AFP.

Fanning the aggression

On Saturday, the head of Austria’s doctors’ association, Johannes Steinhart, said that while aggressive behaviour towards medical staff was not new, it had been “fired up and noticeably aggravated” by the debate over Covid-19 and vaccines.

The police, who had previously suggested Kellermayr was exploiting the situation for attention, insist they did everything to protect her. The local prosecutor’s office also rejected suggestions it could have done more.

“As soon as we received the police report (identifying one of the suspects), we sent it over to the relevant authorities in Germany,” spokesman Christoph Weber said.

On Friday, prosecutors in the neighbouring German state of Bavaria said a 59-year-old suspect was being investigated by a specialist hate speech unit.

At the beginning of the week, Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen visited the small town of Seewalchen where Kellermayr lived to lay flowers in her memory.

After news of her death broke, he had appealed to Austrians to “put an end to intimidation and fear”.

‘They’re gagging us’

But on some Telegram groups, the hateful messages continue.

“Some people are celebrating her death; others believe the vaccine killed her,” said Ingrid Brodnig, a journalist and author who investigates online disinformation.

“Stricts laws exist” already against online hate, but not enough is done to implement them, Brodnig said.

One government minister has floated the idea of a separate prosecutor’s office to target such cases. Doctors and researchers have also been targeted elsewhere.

French infectious disease specialist, Karine Lacombe, described how she had been vilified for her work as part of a collective of doctors combatting coronavirus-related disinformation.

She, too, complained that the response from the authorities in the face of threats was not robust enough, and has scaled down her public appearances this year.

“You end up thinking that the risk isn’t worth it,” she told AFP. “In that sense (the aggressors) have won, they are gagging us,” she said.