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Coronavirus: Austria errs on the side of caution, restricting public life while expanding medical facilities

(Editor’s note: This post about how Austria is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic was written by Terry Boyd with contributions from expats in Austria and media reports.)

On the spectrum of how countries across Europe are dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, Austria is faring well.

But government officials are warning things could go either way this week:

The trend in the development of the number of corona diseases is stable in Austria, but must continue to decrease next week. From the middle of next week, the experts expect the first effects of the traffic restrictions. The impact is evaluated daily.

Unlike Italy, Spain or even the Netherlands, Austria is erring on the side of caution, basically in lockdown mode and citizens are actually following the rules.

All supermarkets, pharmacies and essential services continue to be open. The government has asked all companies to allow employees to work for home offices where possible. Many companies are doing that.

The Austrian government has also advised there are only four legitimate reasons to leave your house during the pandemic:

• If you are one of the essential services workers (medical, supermarket, pharmacy, emergency repairs or similar).

• If you have to get groceries or other essential supplies.

• If you are caring for an elderly person or someone who needs support from others.

• If you have to take your dog out or if you want to have a walk for exercise. But you can do this only if you maintain the necessary distance from other people.

Parks and playground are closed in Vienna though Prater Park, one of the largest public parks in the world, is still accessible.

Adding regional clinics

The Austrian government announced on 20 March that provinces will take over regional coronavirus treatment. There are plans for five clinics regional coronavirus clinics, which will open as demand warrants.

“This measure is an important component of regional planning, which aims to ensure that patients are treated as close to home as possible,” according to Vindobona, an English-language news service.

As of 20 March, 37 inpatient COVID-19 cases were being treated. Up to 960 patients can be treated at the five clinics through a gradual increase in capacity, according to media reports.

Overall, Austria has 3,021 confirmed coronavirus cases as of 22 March, up an aggregate 126 percent from 1,332 on 18 March. About 8 people have died … remarkably low numbers compared to Spain, France and Italy.

Austria is proactive

The government in Austria is very proactive and skilled at communications. Initially, officials stated that restaurants could be open until 3 p.m. starting the week of 16 April so those who have to work can get lunch. But starting 17 March, all restaurants closed.

“Streets are empty, which goes to show you how many people are adhering to the government lock-down.,” said a Vienna-based expat. “Saturday supermarkets such as Lidl had introduced extra measures.” Those include security at the door with gloves and masks. Those security people only allow in shoppers after others have left the store to make sure people maintain a safe distance. And all supermarket staffers are wearing gloves.

“I was one of the people who bought cotton gloves at the pharmacy last week and started using them at the supermarket,” our correspondent said. “I think the panicked rush to the supermarket is over since everyone is now hunkered down, with few options if they want to go anywhere.”

Austrian airlines has suspended their operations. By the way, Lufthansa which is the mother company, issued a media release stating 23,000 flights are cancelled until 25 April, with more likely to be cancelled.

For more information, see the Federal Ministry for Social Affairs website here.

Also, you can see a daily breakdown of data here.

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