Why is Austria talking about ‘Schnitzelpanik’?

Schnitzel
What on earth is Schnitzelpanik? Photo: Mark König/Unsplash
Introducing Schnitzelpanik, the new Austrian word to describe the current Covid situation.

Schnitzelpanik is a newly coined word to describe the sudden uptick in first dose Covid vaccinations following Austria’s sweeping rule changes.

The country on Friday evening announced that it would be bringing in a 2G rule — meaning proof of vaccination against Covid-19 or recovery from the virus are required for entry — across a wide range of public venues, including restaurants, hotels, hairdressers, and events over 25 people.

The stricter measures come in response to a doubling in new Covid cases in the space of a week, and Western Europe’s lowest vaccination rate. For the first four weeks, proof of a first vaccine dose together with a negative PCR test will be accepted as 2G proof, to allow everyone time to get both doses of the jab.

Hence, Schnitzelpanik: the fear that without a Covid-19 vaccine, it will no longer be possible to enjoy the simple pleasure of schnitzel at a restaurant.

Schnitzelpanik first appeared in German news headlines, but has also been adopted by the Austrian press such as Heute, and The Local has spotted it used by publications in Belgium and Switzerland too.

Away from the newsstands, it has even entered common parlance, with a witness reportedly using the term to describe the long queues to Der Standard.

But to what extent is Schnitzelpanik a true phenomena?

While Austria administered more doses last week than at any point since August thanks to the weekend surge, the majority of these were second or third doses. On Saturday, around one in three jabs given were first doses.

The queues seen at some vaccine centres were therefore likely at least partly due to a recent change in guidelines for booster doses, as well as the simple fact that some regions have limited availability for drop-in vaccines on Sundays. Monday’s rule change also saw validity of second doses reduced from 12 months to nine to encourage uptake of the third dose, which since last week has been recommended for the entire population

There are multiple factors behind Austria’s sluggish vaccine take-up, including the leader of the far-right Freedom Party spreading misinformation about the vaccine, as well as a historically higher than average scepticism towards vaccines. The government has ramped up its information campaigns about the vaccine in recent weeks, including adding extra information to its dashboard to show the protective effect offered by the jab.

It remains to be seen whether Schnitzelpanik and the new 2G rule will have a significant impact on vaccination rates.


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