VIENNA (Reuters) -Austria’s daily coronavirus infections have hit a new record as cases continue to surge while the extremely contagious Omicron spreads, government data showed on Wednesday.
Austria is bracing for infections to rise far above previous records, in line with what has happened elsewhere in Europe recently. The conservative-led government wants to avoid reintroducing a full lockdown https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/austria-allows-broad-lifting-lockdown-many-provinces-hold-off-2021-12-08 like the one the country emerged from last month, its fourth of the pandemic.
New daily coronavirus infections rose above 17,000 for the first time on Wednesday, to 17,006, data from the interior and health ministries showed. The previous peak was 15,809 on Nov. 19, though figures vary by source – public health agency AGES lists https://covid19-dashboard.ages.at/?l=en the previous peak as 16,474 on Nov. 16.
“We have today roughly 17,000 positive test results in Austria. That is a new record,” Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein told a news conference, adding that current measures, which include a lockdown https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/austrias-unvaccinated-will-remain-lockdown-next-week-chancellor-says-2021-12-07 for the unvaccinated and a 10 p.m. closing time for bars and restaurants, were the right ones.
“These figures have been forecast for 14 days, so that is no surprise. We have an intensive-care unit occupancy rate of around 12% and regular hospital-bed occupancy has fallen from 3,000 to around 650.”
Newspaper Kronen Zeitung reported earlier on Wednesday that cases had risen above 18,000, citing a national register separate to the ministries’ figures.
Although Omicron is more contagious than previous variants, a smaller proportion of people infected require treatment in hospital, but it is still unclear how hospitalisations will evolve, Mueckstein said.
“We have a paradigm shift. We must ensure that we avoid a general lockdown. We must also, however, ensure that Austria keeps running. We must ensure that with so many positive tests people can keep working,” he said, referring to recently eased quarantine rules.
(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Toby Chopra and Tomasz Janowski)