Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz wants to carry out mass tests, the opposition accuses him of total failure. Meanwhile, before the hard blockade, people flock to the shops.
The Austrian Interior Minister has tried his hand at the dialect, perhaps because the bad news, packed close to the people, sounds a little less threatening. Karl Nehammer said: “Everyone tends to stick to the measures”, but it is necessary.
What really gets on the nerves of Austrians, translated into High German, is the second block that the government announced on Saturday evening in Vienna and which will start on Tuesday evening. Close all shops except basic suppliers, pharmacies and banks. External contacts outside the family should only be allowed with “a partner, close relatives or important contact persons”. It is best for Austrians to leave their homes only in an emergency, for individual sports or short walks or for shopping. They should work at home as far away as possible.
The message from Vice Chancellor of the Greens Werner Kogler, notoriously a frequent speaker, was unusually short and sweet: “Stay home as best you can.”
Highest rate of new infections in the world
Just a few weeks ago, the coalition of the ÖVP and the Greens said that the radical measures with curfews and school closures, as already implemented in numerous EU countries, wanted to be avoided – and hopefully they could be avoided. But now these radical measures have become inevitable.
With around 7,000 cases per day, Austria has the highest rate of new infections in the world. In some federal states, hospitals are working to the limit, intensive care units are full. If this continues, we hear from Vorarlberg, for example, that seriously ill people will soon have to be removed and important operations postponed.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who boasted in late spring that the country had emerged particularly well from the crisis and had seen “the light at the end of the tunnel” after the first summer wave, had to admit over the weekend ahead of the second wave, the situation is more than difficult: if the infection numbers in the new block, which will expire on December 6, do not fall, “it would be a disaster”.
The desire to buy increases with discounts
But first of all, after a brief dip in the past few days, the numbers could even go up. The village has been in partial isolation for a few weeks, restaurants, concert halls and museums are closed, but the shops are open. When it became clear that the next full closure would happen within days, people flocked to the stores again. Large retail chains increased the urge to shop with discount campaigns, and there were queues in pedestrian zones.
The government appealed to common sense and hinted, to the indignation of numerous opposition politicians, that one can only be politically successful if the behavior of citizens allows it. As the blame for the random action passed to the population, it was said by the SPÖ.
When asked in interviews whether the new bloc would not come too late, Chancellor Kurz told the ORF on Sunday that the population was allegedly “not ready to participate” a few weeks ago. Now it is a question of proceeding with such care and attention that we can get to the point where a vaccine is available to everyone.
Kurz announced mass testing based on Slovakia’s example for December. The chancellor refused to acknowledge that the government had made mistakes. According to Kurz, “it was not a mistake” that “we had a relatively normal summer, that we could have lived five relatively normal months”.
The opposition accuses the government of total bankruptcy
Of course, the opposition sees it completely differently. Chancellor Kurz has no plan, no concept. The fact that the country is currently doing so unexpectedly wrong is not the fault of the citizens, but of a divided government that focuses primarily on self-PR. The political dispute is mainly triggered by education policy. Austrian schools will switch back to distance learning from Tuesday. Schools and kindergartens remain open for assistance and educational support.
Neos and SPÖ now sharply criticize the fact that too little was done during the summer to ensure that classroom teaching in schools can continue to take place even with the growing number of corona infections. The government’s suggestions to parents about how they should learn with their children and that children need a retreat place are simply far from life.
SPÖ chief Pamela Rendi-Wagner called the three-week lockdown “an admission of guilt for the total failure to manage the crown”.