Austria’s coronavirus pandemic is spiraling out of control



The unscrupulous policies of the ruling parties in Austria in recent months have led to massive coronavirus infections and high death rates. The country of 8.9 million people recorded 15,809 new infections on Friday, one of the highest infection rates in all of Europe. Over the weekend, around 15,000 people were also infected daily. Thursday, the threshold of one million contaminations was exceeded.

People wait to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in Vienna, Austria on Monday, November 22, 2021. (AP Photo / Vadim Ghirda)

More than 12,000 people have lost their lives since the start of the pandemic. Hospitals across the country are collapsing under the high number of intensive care patients. The 7-day incidence rate per 100,000 inhabitants has been above 1,000 for several days. In several provinces, it far exceeds that. In Salzburg it was 1,805 on Friday and in Upper Austria 1,677. The vaccination rate of 66 percent is very low compared to other European countries.

The ferocious wave of infections has been raging for weeks across all sectors of society. In addition to hospitals and retirement homes, schools and kindergartens in particular have been exposed to the contagion. During the second week of school after the mid-month fall break, 3,520 PCR tests gave positive results in schools.

According to the Ministry of Education and the city of Vienna, there were 965 positive tests in Vienna alone (862 pupils, 103 teachers), in Upper Austria there were 673 pupils, in Lower Austria 406, in Styria 328, Tyrol 248, Carinthia 235, Salzburg 209, Vorarlberg 96 and Burgenland 73. As there is no comprehensive testing regime, the number of unreported cases is several times higher.

The long-term consequences of this policy are not even foreseeable yet. Since spring 2021, the Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES), MedUni Graz and the Austrian Society of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine (ÖGKJ) have been carrying out a study on this subject. More recently, the first intermediate results of 755 children up to 14 years were presented.

The Salzburger Nachrichten quoted Daniela Schmid, the coordinator of the AGES study, as saying: “Sixty percent of children who tested positive developed clinical symptoms of COVID-19 disease. Just under 7% were presented to a doctor; 2.4% were hospitalized. More than four weeks after infection, symptoms of Long COVID were seen in 11% of children under 10 years old. Children aged 10 to 14 were affected even more frequently, at 15.5%. The most common Long COVID symptoms observed were generally increased fatigue (4.2%), followed by altered smell and taste (3%) and shortness of breath. Symptoms were still seen in 6.2 percent of respondents more than three months after infection.

The country’s hospital staff have long since reached their limits, and regular patient care is no longer possible. A nurse at a hospital in Upper Austria told the APA news agency about the dire conditions there. From Sunday evening to Monday of the previous week, she said, there were so many deaths in her hospital that the pathology department was already at its limits. “The bodies had to be dropped off in the hallway due to overcrowding.”

In hospitals in the province of Salzburg practically all intensive care beds are occupied. As of Wednesday, 30 of a total of 136 intensive care beds were occupied by COVID-19 patients. Under these conditions, triage measures, that is to say the selection of which patient can be treated and which patient is doomed to die, are concretely prepared. A spokesperson for the regional hospitals in Salzburg explained that a team of doctors had been appointed to decide which patients could still be treated in intensive care. It was necessary to warn “the population and the politicians now that we are at the foot of the wall”, declared the spokesperson for the hospital.

In this tiny state alone, there is currently a shortage of 272 hospital beds. In addition, there is a shortage of medical and nursing staff. Due to the sharp rise in the number of infections, the state of Salzburg also expects a further massive increase in the number of COVID-19 patients.

The federal government coalition of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and the Green Party, as well as the Austrian Social Democratic Party (SPÖ), which is in government in several states, are responsible for the catastrophic situation in the Alpine Republic. Since the start of the pandemic, all parties have largely implemented the policies of the far-right Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ), which most openly advocates the criminal and murderous policy of deliberate mass infection. .

This cannot be masked even by the lockdown that went into effect on Monday, which the government did not decide until Friday. The same regulations now apply as those used during previous closures in Austria. For example, there are restrictions on leaving your home. This is now only allowed for shopping, visiting doctors and relatives, working or exercising outdoors. Only supermarkets and stores supplying daily needs remain open; other stores are closed. The same goes for cultural institutions and indoor sports facilities. In addition, the introduction of a general vaccination obligation is under discussion.

As with previous measures, those adopted today come much too late and are far from sufficient. Initially, the measures should only apply for 20 days, until December 12. This period is not sufficient to reduce the number of contaminations to the extent that this would be necessary.

The government tries to maintain the policy of “profits before life” at all costs. Despite the explosion in infections, businesses and schools remain open. While parents are free to choose not to send their children to in-person classes, the unrestricted openness of businesses means parents have little opportunity to make that choice.

Last year, under then-Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP), Austria was already a pioneer in its reopening policy. Although the country was one of the starting points for the pandemic in Europe, the People’s Party and the Greens have always refused to impose scientifically necessary protective measures, citing economic interests. Short and half-hearted ‘locks’ were ordered several times. After their end, large-scale reopenings have always resulted in a huge increase in the number of infections.

Last month, Kurz was forced to resign after the Central Prosecutor’s Office for Prosecuting Economic Crimes and Corruption raided the Federal Chancellery, the Ministry of Finance and the ÖVP party headquarters. Kurz and his closest associates have been accused of serious embezzlement, bribes and misrepresentation.

But policies have not changed as a result. Kurz’s successor Alexander Schallenberg said just days ago there would be no “lockdown in solidarity with the unvaccinated.” Vice-Chancellor Werner Kogler and Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein (both Greens) also resisted urgent advice and demands from doctors and scientists who had warned for months about the disaster that has now unfolded .

The government’s unscrupulous collective immunity policies, largely in line with those of the FPÖ and QAnon types, have strengthened these far-right forces.

As tens of thousands of people are infected daily and dozens die from COVID-19, large protests against coronavirus protections have again been allowed in Vienna and have been escorted by police. Predominantly right-wing and openly fascist groups called for participation in the protests and, according to media reports, mobilized around 30,000 people from Austria and abroad. The protesters included convicted neo-Nazi Gottfried Küssel and identity leader Martin Sellner.

Although there have been indications of possible attacks on hospitals and vaccination centers, police in Vienna said they did not expect the situation to escalate. And even after the demonstrators carried out attacks, the protests were able to be carried out and ended without hindrance. The close ties between the state and far-right elements were also demonstrated by the call for high-ranking military representatives to participate in the protests.



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