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COVID-19 VACCINES

Austria recommends Covid booster shot for children aged five and over

The commission also recommends three doses of the vaccine for people who have recovered from the coronavirus disease.

child vaccination austria
A girl receives her first shot of the corona vaccine in Vienna, Austria on November 15, 2021 (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Austria’s National Vaccination Board has recommended that children from the age of five get a third dose of the Covid-19 vaccination, the “booster” dose.

“This third vaccination should take place at the latest at the beginning of the school year ahead of the expected next waves of infection in autumn”, the board said in a press statement.

The third dose is recommended six months after the second shot, the commission added.

Additionally, the updated recommendation given by the government body also clarified that a total of three vaccinations are needed for “the best possible and long-term protection”, even among people who have already been infected with Covid-19.

READ ALSO: UPDATED: The latest coronavirus restrictions in Austria

The commission stated that “from an immunological point of view, these vaccinations are to be regarded as a basic vaccination”. This means that, in the future, the Covi-19 vaccination schedule will consider three doses of an approved vaccine.

According to the board statement, an infection with the coronavirus would only lead to a postponement of the vaccinations but shouldn’t replace any dose.

Austria’s Health Minister Johannes Rauch reinforced the need for vaccination in the country, which currently has fewer than 70 per cent of its population with two doses of the vaccine up to date.

“The corona vaccination has saved the lives of countless people and continues to do so. The ongoing adaptation of recommendations ensures that new scientific findings are constantly incorporated”, Rauch said in a press statement.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What are Austria’s plans to bring back the vaccine mandate?

The new recommendation can be found on Austria’s Health Ministry website. However, the ministry hasn’t specified how the recommendation would affect the Covid-19 passes or the “green pass” validity, especially those held by people who have recovered from the disease.

Covid numbers

Austria this Monday reported 4,111 new coronavirus infections, with 89,861 PCR tests taken in 24 hours. According to the Health Ministry, there are currently 1,492 people hospitalised with the virus (26 fewer than the day before), and 124 people are in intensive care units with Covid.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 18,054 people have died from the Covid-19.

The alpine country has currently 68.4 per cent of its population with a valid vaccination certificate, and 54.5 per cent of its population has received the third dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

READ ALSO: Austria to keep masks only in ‘essential places’ from April 16th

Austria has recently removed almost all of its coronavirus restrictions, including the need to show a valid vaccination certificate to enter bars and restaurants. The country also dropped its FFP2 mask mandate in all indoor areas except for “essential” places such as public transport, health areas, and supermarkets.

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COVID-19 ALERT

Austria to remove quarantine for positive Covid-19 cases

People who test positive for Covid-19 will no longer be required to self-isolate in Austria. Here is what you need to know.

Austria to remove quarantine for positive Covid-19 cases

Austria will remove the mandatory self-isolation requirement for people who test positive for Covid-19 from August 1st, Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) said in a press conference on Tuesday.

People who do not feel sick will be allowed to leave their homes even after a positive Covid-19 test but will have to follow specific requirements, the Austrian federal government said.

“We believe we have a good balance now”, Rauch said.

The so-called “traffic restrictions” mean that those who don’t feel sick will be allowed to leave their homes but must wear an FFP2 mask indoors and outdoors whenever social distancing is not possible.

The health minister said that people who feel sick should call their doctors and ask for a sick leave.

Additionally, there are entry bans in hospitals, nursing and elderly care homes, childcare facilities, elementary schools and daycare centres.

READ ALSO: What are the fines for not wearing masks on Vienna’s public transport?

However, employees of these areas will be allowed to go to work – with the mask mandate – even if they are infected. The only exceptions are professions that are made impossible to do with a mask on, such as speech therapists and musicians.

The restrictions are valid for a maximum of 10 days and as soon as there is a positive antigen test. But a negative PCR test (or PCR test with a CT value over 30 as shown in the laboratory results) allows people to leave the “traffic restrictions” after the fifth day.

In the case of restaurants and bars, people are allowed to go inside, sit and chat but must wear a mask at all times – meaning they cannot consume food and beverages.

BACKGROUND: Will Austria drop quarantine and isolation for positive Covid-19 cases?

“We cannot live this degree of pandemic-related crisis mood for years”, health minister Johannes Rauch said. However, he added that if the situation appears to be getting worse again, the government will impose stricter measures.

He reiterated that the pandemic situation has reached a new stage. “We have the vaccine, we have medication, people are getting milder courses of the disease than before”, Rauch stated.

Protection for risk groups

Labour minister Martin Kocher (ÖVP) said risk groups should be protected, and a specific ordinance is being prepared for workplaces where there are people at risk. 

Kocher said that companies will be able to work out measures such as work-from-home schemes for people at risk. Additionally, workers that belong to vulnerable groups could be exempted from work by presenting a “risk certificate”.

Experts sceptical

SPÖ health spokesperson Philip Kucher said that the government had abandoned the pandemic management, calling a lifting of isolation requirements “irresponsible and dangerous” and demanding a proper pandemic response plan for the autumn.

“A quarantine end for infected people would be dangerous and could bring the health care system back to its limits. An irresponsible and dangerous game”, he wrote in a statement.

READ ALSO: ‘At the limit: Huge spike in Covid hospitalisations and deaths in Austria

Austria’s federal government can set up the minimum requirements for the country, but individual states could impose stricter rules.

Vienna’s Mayor Michael Ludwig said he thought the relaxation was a “step in the wrong direction”, but if quarantine is abolished at a national level, the Austrian capital will not go a different way and keep quarantine, as it would be too difficult to implement with the city receiving 300,000 commuters every day.

Surprisingly the wife of Austria’s Health Minister Johannes Rauch has also criticised the plan to relax quarantine.

Gabi Sprickler-Falschlunger, the Vorarlberg SPÖ state party leader, says it is undoubtedly the “wrong decision” and predicts a sharp rise in Covid-19 infections.

Covid-19 numbers

On Tuesday, Austria recorded 9,213 new coronavirus cases after 125,571 PCR tests, according to the Health Ministry.

There were 1,604 people in hospitals with Covid-19, 56 more than the day before, and 93 in intensive care units (five more than the previous day).

Currently, just 60.2 percent of the population has valid immunological protection – meaning a combination of vaccines and/or recovered status accepted by the federal government.

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