Risk of infection in Austria continues to rise

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The risk of infection in Austria continues to rise according to the new assessment of the traffic light commission. After Thursday’s meeting, the risk for Austria as a whole is now rated medium, making the country as a whole yellow. Among the federal states, only Burgenland and Carinthia are now yellow-green. In addition to the already yellow provinces of Salzburg, Tyrol and Vorarlberg, Vienna, Lower and Upper Austria and Styria are now also colored yellow.

The Corona Commission has been observing a rising trend in case numbers for several weeks, it said in a statement on Thursday. The burden on the healthcare system is at a low level for now, it said, with the Covid-specific ICU burden at 2.95 percent as of Aug. 17, based on all reported adult ICU beds in Austria. Forecast calculations show an increase in ICU utilization to a level of 5.8 percent on Sept. 1, 2021, and vaccination coverage with a first prick has reached a level of about 67 percent of the vaccine-eligible population (12 years and older) and is already about 86 percent in the 65-plus group, the commission said.

The commission also noted that the Covid forecasting consortium produced simulation calculations in early July with a time horizon through the end of September. “A comparison of the simulated scenarios, which assume different vaccination scenarios, with the actual observed development shows that the infection incidence has developed unfavorably since mid-July and follows the trajectories of the worst-case scenarios.” Key to this, in addition to the more transmissible and virulent delta variant, is the decreased vaccination coverage, “which has decreased by about 85 percent in August compared to June 2021,” the Corona Commission said. “Given current vaccination coverage of about 61 percent (first partial vaccination) of the total population, the necessary coverage rates of 80 percent or more by the end of September 2021 appear barely achievable.”

Accordingly, the commission emphasized that the utilization of intensive care units is currently still low, “but is significantly dependent on the development of the average age of infected persons and their immunization status.” “Already, the average age of infected individuals is beginning to increase, as is ICU utilization,” the commission said. “It is plausible to assume that, similar to the situation in the fall of 2020, the incidence of infection will again spread, beginning with young groups of persons, to unvaccinated older and thus more vulnerable groups of persons, where, as before, there will be clusters of severe courses primarily among the unvaccinated,” it said.

The higher vaccination coverage rates among older groups of people could slow this development, but, the commission stressed, “given the more virulent and transmissible delta variant, the current coverage rate of the overall population is currently insufficient to rule out renewed overuse of intensive care units in the course of the fall and winter of 2021.” In addition, there is the seasonal effect, which in autumn “will additionally accelerate the spread of the virus due to less UV radiation, more indoor activity, etc.”.

The currently observed infection incidence primarily affects the non-immunized population, he said. Non-immunized individuals currently account for more than 80 percent of incidence cases, underscoring the effectiveness of vaccination, the commission emphasized. Cluster analysis by the Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES) found a high proportion of cases or clusters with travel association, it said. “The Corona Commission therefore again recommends accelerating the vaccination progress with all possible means and incentives,” it said.

In addition to the school sector, the commission recommended “targeted actions for university students”. In addition, according to the panel’s ideas, “the gradual reintroduction of preventive measures of previous regulations” should be added.

The Corona Commission also recommended that “the federal government should promptly clarify the data protection law regarding the disclosure of the personal vaccination status of hospitalized persons or patients treated in the ICU (intensive care unit – intensive care beds, note) or, if necessary, create a data protection law basis for such disclosure”. Pending this clarification under data protection law, state departments should “enable the provision of this information in a form aggregated at the state level on a daily basis.”

— source: Austrian Press Agency (APA), picture: pixabay.com

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