Coronavirus Outbreak in Austria: Current Risk Assessment

More+More+ ♦ Published: February 23, 2020; 14:30 ♦ (Vindobona)

The opposition demands the highest alert level and border controls for Austria. Minister of the Interior: "Coercive measures not excluded". What is the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection for Austria's population and for travellers travelling in and out of Austria?

Is the fear of the coronavirus also spreading to Austria via Italy? / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons / Edvard Munch / Public Domain (Extract)

Due to the sharp increase in coronavirus cases in Italy and in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, the authorities in Austria are trying to calm down.

A state of emergency has now been declared in Italy. After the first deaths and a drastic increase in the number of infected people, the country is sealing off affected areas. Head of government Giuseppe Conte announced comprehensive quarantine measures after a crisis meeting in the night from yesterday to today.

In Italy, the number of people infected with coronas virus has risen sharply. Only a few hours ago, the Italian media were still putting the number of people infected with SARS-CoV-2 at 76, but a few hours later that figure was corrected to over 100, 89 of them in Lombardy. Further cases have since been recorded in Veneto, the regions of Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna and Lazio.

In Austria, on the other hand, there was "no reason to panic", said - according to the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation ORF - the Minister of the Interior Karl Nehammer on Sunday in a press conference called at short notice.

"The situation in Italy is being closely monitored, however, and Austria is well prepared for any eventuality."

Nehammer continued: "We take the situation in Italy very seriously, and the rapid increase in the number of cases is striking. The situation in Italy is developing dynamically".

Austria, however, is currently still "in the happy position" that there is no case, the Minister of the Interior continued.

On the other hand, various groups criticize the Austrian government for its hesitant approach and demand a state of emergency.

The "Alliance for Austria (Die Allianz für Österreich)" expressed concern about the spreading coronavirus:

"We have already had the first fatalities in our neighbouring state of Italy. South of Carinthia - in Friuli-Venezia Giulia - a state of emergency has already been declared. But the Austrian government merely acknowledges this with appeasement slogans and continues to sleep in its pendulum clock."

"The highest alert level therefore also applies to Austria. In addition, appropriate border controls, the suspension of the Schengen Agreement and similar measures must be initiated immediately. The Austrian Federal Government must end its inactivity and is now called upon to act immediately," the DAÖ continued.

"The emergency plans must now be put on the table immediately. For it is irresponsible that the population receives neither recommendations for behaviour nor precautionary information. The Federal Government seems to be so preoccupied with itself that it forgets to protect the Austrians. Caution is always better than indulgence."

And against this background, the DAÖ "also calls on the Federal President to make those responsible in the government, Health Minister Anschober and Interior Minister Nehammer, responsible for the protection of the population, instead of commenting on exclusive ball whispers (note: reference to the visit of the Opera Ball)", the DAÖ continued in its statement.