Federal government: further openings not before Easter

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After a meeting with Corona experts (including virologists Elisabeth Puchhammer-Stöckl and Monika Redlberger-Fritz, mutation expert Andreas Bergthaler, the chairwoman of the National Vaccination Panel, Ursula Wiedermann-Schmidt, and Federal Rescue Commander Gerry Foitik) took place at the Federal Chancellery from 10:30 a.m. on Monday, representatives of the parliamentary parties joined the government and experts at noon, and from 1 p.m. the heads of the provinces also joined them. The federal government informed about the outcome of the talks on Monday afternoon.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) spoke of a currently “stable infection situation”, in which one has to fight, however, “that the mutations increase”. In eastern Austria it is the British variant, especially in Tyrol the South African. Therefore, “great caution is still necessary.”

It will be discussed on 1 March if it possible to open the gastronomy and hotel trade around Easter.

Until then, the government continues to rely on the FFP2 masks and the recently massively expanded range of test lanes and self-tests. From March 1, there will also be free self-tests in pharmacies (“nose-picker tests”) for this purpose, so that people can test themselves at home. “We are among the countries that test the very most,” Kurz said, praising the strategy. There are now 500 testing stations in the country, he said, and more than 800 pharmacies and 700 businesses are “now also on board.” In addition, he said, Austria was the first country to rely on testing in schools. “We are going our own way here,” also said Oswald Wagner, vice rector of MedUni Vienna. The “high test numbers” are a “good chance that we can thereby flatten the growth in the best possible way,” Kurz emphasized.

In 14 days, he said, the panel will deliberate again. “We are hopeful that we will manage to keep the infection incidence under control although schools and trade are open,” Kurz said. Health Minister Rudolf Anschober (Greens) was pleased with the reduced number of deaths since the beginning of the year. He said that while there were about 3,000 corona deaths recorded in December, there have been only 490 so far in February. “Austria is doing much better than Germany on this issue since the beginning of the year,” Anschober said. “I very much hope that we can continue this development.”

The reason for this, he said, is that it has been possible to reduce the high numbers of infections in old people’s homes. 4500 active cases in November compare to the current 630 on today’s date. “This is gradually going down and the proportion of deaths in nursing homes is decreasing significantly.” Currently, 35 percent of Corona deaths are attributable to nursing homes. Anschober was also optimistic about the fact that nursing homes are expected to be thoroughly vaccinated in the second half of February. In the “manageable time horizon” one could create it that after Easter to open again. By then, one million Austrians should have been vaccinated.

— source: die presse.at/picture: pixabay.com

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