Austria, a good student overwhelmed by the second wave of COVID

Hailed for its previous management, Austria is again confined from Tuesday and its government faces unprecedented criticism from the press, experts and the opposition, for its lack of responsiveness.

“Lack of anticipation”, “irresponsible behavior”: the coalition government between the conservatives of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and environmentalists faces a shower of reproaches, since he announced on Saturday the need to close schools and shops for at least three weeks.

Starting with those of the leader of the social democratic opposition, doctor and ex-minister of health, for whom the establishment of an exit ban and the shutdown of the economy is “without question the expression a total loss of control ”.

“It is in particular because of the government that Austria passed from the status of model country to that of red lantern concerning the contaminations”, thundered Pamela Rendi-Wagner, putting an end to the national consensus.

Dazzling spread

The average number of daily contaminations was on Monday at 809 per million inhabitants over the last seven days, according to the site “Our World in Data”, which is much more than in the United States (460) or in neighboring Germany (221 ).

The Austrian government decided to close non-essential classes and stores on Tuesday, two weeks after partial containment was put in place which failed to slow the rapid spread of the coronavirus in the country.

Until December 6, outings are only allowed in very specific circumstances (food shopping, professional and medical reasons, sports or walks).

Partial containment with the establishment of a night curfew was introduced in early November. Restaurants, museums, concert halls, sports spaces had been closed, but the number of cases continued to explode.

Relatively spared by the first wave, this country of 8.9 million inhabitants, one of the very first to close completely in the spring, in fact recorded another 4657 infections on Monday, against “only” 1000 at the beginning of October and the hospital system. reaches saturation.

“Emergency braking”

A new confinement is therefore “necessary”, according to Oliver Jauk, who like many Austrians went to do his last shopping on Monday afternoon when his restaurant is closed.

“But we could certainly have avoided it and other measures should have been implemented earlier”, regrets this fifty-year-old Viennese, interviewed by AFP in the main shopping street in the center of the capital.

The conservative daily “Die Presse” deplored Sunday the “lack of planning of the government”.

Its liberal competitor “Der Standard” pointed out Monday the “series of bad decisions” of the environmental minister of Health Rudolf Anschober, having led directly to the current “emergency braking”.

“We spent the summer standing on the accelerator,” denounces in the newspapers the virologist from the medical university Christophe Steininger, referring to the economic recovery.

” Back against the wall “

Vienna set up a traffic light system which proved ineffective, the bars were again crowded, choirs and orchestras could rehearse and offer performances.

Hit by an attack for the first time in decades on November 2, Austria also had its head elsewhere, devoting its resources to the hunt for possible accomplices of the jihadist.

“People are tired, conspiracy theories are circulating, errors are obviously made – but this is normal – and the opposition is stepping up to the plate: national unity is undermined by the second wave”, summarizes with the ‘AFP political scientist Julia Partheymüller, from the University of Vienna.

Nurses and doctors “with their backs to the wall”, yet it is up to the political class to “protect them from a situation of triage” of patients, slice the deputy environmentalist Ralph Schallmeiner.

Austria has 2,500 to 3,000 intensive care beds. And in Tyrol, 83% of the places reserved for patients infected with the coronavirus are already occupied, according to the national health agency (Ages). Too late or not, the race against time is now on.

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