Austria’s coronavirus epidemic is as bad but still an international concern because of the country’s risk of a second wave of infections, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Wednesday.
“The problem isn’t confined to Austria, but it is also Germany, Sweden, Danone, Northeastern and others. It’s not limited to Austria. It’s a global issue and that’s how it must be dealt with,” Kurz told a news conference.
“We are dealing with a disease with more cases that we ourselves would compare to the West [Germany] or France,” he said.
After reopening schools, shops, bars and restaurants in April, Austria has largely managed to bring its contagion binge under control, although late-breaking outbreaks in busy border areas in Austria and Germany are likely to arise again.
A quick and clean response, with measures such as fingerprint checks and contact tracing, authorities in the country, which has recorded 1,965 of its own deaths from the virus, can minimize the chances of a second wave, Kurz said.
However, he added that work must be done within the community to make sure people had not left their homes without washing their hands, avoiding gatherings where possible.
That will take at least two years.
Jamaica and neighboring Finland, which have admitted 12 cases each, said they would roll out border controls and measures to stem the contagion in neighbouring Sweden.
The World Health Organization this week said the risk of a large-scale spread and a pandemic in Europe remained “very high” given the region’s relatively passive approach to limited testing and tracking.
Austria was among the first in Europe to impose a 14-day quarantine and to require a one-month ‘immunity-free” working week, but has brought in additional measures over the past month.
Austria, which had initially won plaudits from health officials for containing the virus, has become less hospitable to the disease, prompting complaints that the death rate has spiked over the past few months and that cantons are tightening limits.
Tough tactics and restrictive measures in public spaces have been tried, and Kurz said that the country was “not giving in”.Austria’s government has opted for a new policy of gradual reopening to schools for kindergartens starting in September, with readers, photographers and writers advised to go indoors.
Austria’s fourth-grade and 10th-grade education system, which has already been under severe pressure, will continue open after a 3-1/2 month break in September and October.