Wien The appeals from Austria’s retail trade to the government were ineffective. In the past few days, their representatives had insisted that the country should not be expected to face a second “hard” lockdown. Such, they argued, the economy would hardly withstand.
But the government had no choice but to paralyze economic life more or less from next Tuesday and close schools by December 6th. It is now a matter of saving lives, said Austria’s Minister of Health Rudolf Anschober when he announced the latest drastic measures.
Austria is currently being hit by the coronavirus pandemic to an extent that hardly any other European country is. In the past seven days, the number of new infections reported averaged over 7,000, and that with a population of 8.9 million people. There is currently a great risk that the hospitals will no longer be able to cope with the onslaught of patients or that so many nurses will fall ill with Covid-19 that patient care is no longer guaranteed.
In part, the Austrians have to attribute the new lockdown to themselves. After the country coped with the first wave of the pandemic relatively well in the spring, a certain carelessness spread. Also on this Saturday there was a crowd in the shopping streets of Vienna, as if the pandemic were far away. Certain shops attracted customers with discounts, and long queues quickly formed.
Unfortunately, government intervention is now apparently needed to keep the shops from such short-term action. Not only is the stability of the healthcare system at stake, but also the condition of certain sectors in the medium term.
A “hard” lockdown of just two and a half weeks is planned. There is little time to reduce the number of new infections to a tolerable level. But the government is obviously very concerned about the economy. That is why drastic measures are needed, and we hope that they should work quickly.
Austria’s tourism in particular is on the verge of collapse. It contributes around 7.5% to GDP, far more than in many industrialized countries. Tourism in Vienna has been idle since March; many companies are economically on the brink. The same cannot happen in the winter holiday resorts in the west of the country. The risk that the winter season will largely be canceled is currently great. With the latest, drastic measures, Austria is also fighting for the survival of an important economic sector.
More: The previous gentle lockdown has not had the desired effect. Now the government around Sebastian Kurz is taking drastic measures.