Coronavirus: Announcement of new measures on Saturday

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The government may announce new steps against the spread of the coronavirus on Saturday. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) called this date on Thursday after a meeting with medical experts in the Federal Chancellery. If the currently high number of new infections continues to rise, the intensive care units would already be overloaded “in the middle or end of November”, said Health Minister Rudolf Anschober (Greens).

On Friday, Kurz said that there would be talks with the social partners. On Saturday, meetings with the state governors and the opposition are on the agenda, and the Federal President will also be informed. According to Kurz, the talks on Saturday will be followed by public information on the necessary measures. “We are not in a phase where hours are at stake,” Kurz said in response to the question of when the new measures will apply.

There was no information from the government on what the measures might look like in terms of content, for the time being. The “Salzburger Nachrichten” reported on “lockdown-like” measures that could be taken. According to the “Oberösterreichische Nachrichten”, a night-time curfew is also under discussion. It was clear that Austria was currently heading for a phase “where we have to take massive countermeasures, because otherwise hospitals and intensive care units would be overtaxed,” Kurz said, without giving details.

On Thursday, the experts discussed the question of how many new infections would overload the domestic health care system, Kurz said. Two weeks ago, he estimated that this number was 6,000 new cases per day over a period of several weeks. “This was confirmed to us,” said the Chancellor.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of the Interior reported 4,453 new cases in a 24-hour comparison. This is the highest registered figure to date, but it includes around 430 late reports from Lower Austria. Much more relevant than this figure, according to Kurz, is the fact that the number of new infections is currently doubling within a week on average.

Overloading the health care system would not only mean that planned operations would have to be postponed, but in extreme cases also that doctors would have to decide who would be helped and who would not. “This is a situation we will not allow,” said the Chancellor.

The current situation is “more drastic” than the one in spring, said Health Minister Anschober. The increase in the number of cases in Austria is dramatic. Current forecasts, “which we have had on the table since Tuesday evening”, would show an increase to up to 5,800 cases daily by the end of next week. According to Anschober, there is also a change in the age structure of those affected. The over 85-year-olds are already the second most frequently affected age group after the 15 to 24-year-olds.

Intensive care patients will “rapidly increase”
Herwig Ostermann, managing director of Gesundheit Österreich (GÖG), said that on average one of 100 new patients currently ends up in hospital and subsequently in the intensive care unit, where he has to be treated for an average of 12.5 days. The patients are becoming “rapidly more”. According to the prognosis, 400 to 500 patients will be in intensive care units by mid-November, Ostermann said.

These are also “treatable”. On average, there are 2,000 intensive care beds in Austria; according to Ostermann, they can be occupied by 1,800 people. Approximately 60 percent of them need the beds acutely, i.e. after accidents or because of operations that cannot be postponed. There is therefore a potential of 700 beds that can be made available to patients in an emergency.

Klaus Markstaller, President of the Austrian Society for Anaesthesia, Resuscitation and Intensive Care Medicine (ÖGARI), said that an expansion of intensive care capacities is not possible in the short term. If intensive care medicine is pushed to its limit with new infection numbers above 6,000, “then we would no longer be able to provide the best possible medicine,” warned Markstaller.

Appeal for All Saints’ Day Weekend
For the All Saints’ weekend, Kurz referred to the recommendations to reduce social contacts and to refrain from family gatherings. He again appealed to the population to support the measures: “The steps we as the federal government can take are one part, the other is the participation of the population.

The challenge, he said, was “that there is a certain tiredness among many people, a no longer wanting to,” Kurz said. He did not reproach anyone in this regard, “because I personally can understand this very well,” because these are restrictions that nobody wants.

Health Minister Anschober underlined the urgency of further measures. A large package of measures had already been presented last weekend, but it was clear that this would not be enough in view of the continuing sharp rise in the number of infections. Anschober held out the prospect of a reactivation of the sick leave by telephone. The Minister said that talks were currently underway.

Source: ORF.at/agencies. Picture:Screenshot, orf.at

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