​​Health Minister holds emergency meeting over skyrocketing COVID-19 cases

Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein held an emergency meeting Wednesday evening. [EPA-EFE / CHRISTIAN BRUNA]

Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein held an emergency meeting Wednesday evening with the state governors of Upper Austria and Salzburg and recommended implementing a lockdown for the unvaccinated to prevent the number of new cases increasing.

On Wednesday (10 November), over 11,000 new infections were reported in Austria, the highest number so far. Salzburg and Upper Austria are significantly affected, with hospitals overloaded and the occupancy rate of intensive care units reaching its limits. If the situation were to continue, triage practices – where only those who have the best chance of surviving would receive treatment – would soon have to be implemented.

He also criticised the governors for not doing enough to tackle the spread of the disease.

However, the state governors are sceptical of implementing lockdown measures. “Nobody wants, or needs a lockdown,” Thomas Stelzer, governor of Upper Austria, said ahead of the meeting.

In a similar vein, Wilfried Haslauer, the governor of Salzburg, said that “Minister Mückstein has proposed a lockdown for the unvaccinated in Upper Austria and Salzburg. However, I am a bit sceptical about this approach.”

Haslauer justified his reluctance by stating that controlling adherence to a lockdown for the unvaccinated would be difficult. He will decide on Friday whether the lockdown will be introduced.

Austria implemented stage four of the national COVID-19 plan, which effectively banned all unvaccinated people from entering bars, cultural and sports events. Stage five would introduce a fully-fledged lockdown for the unvaccinated.

Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg emphasised in a statement that there will not be any lockdown for vaccinated people. However, he said that a lockdown for the unvaccinated could be introduced in the near future. Furthermore, he wants to discuss the introduction of compulsory vaccinations for certain professions.

(Oliver Noyan | EURACTIV.de)

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