In the two Austrian federal states of Salzburg and Upper Austria, a general shutdown will apply from next week – also for vaccinated people. You should only leave home for urgent errands, exercise, or commuting to work. Most shops and restaurants have to close. Now there is a threat of such a shutdown for all of Austria, says SRF correspondent Peter Balzli.
SRF correspondent in Vienna
Peter Balzli first worked for SRF in the 1990s. First for the programs “Kassensturz” and “Time-Out”, then he was a correspondent for Swiss television in Paris and London. Since mid-2016 he has been reporting as a freelance SRF correspondent from Vienna on Eastern and Southern Europe and the Baltic States.
SRF News: How does Austria react to the drastic measures in Salzburg and Upper Austria?
Peter Balzli: Nobody is really happy with the decision maker – for many it comes too late, for others too early. The Social Democrats are among the first, while the shutdown is completely unnecessary for the rights of the FPÖ. The party calls for a protest rally in Vienna on Saturday, at which up to 10,000 people are expected.
For the FPÖ, the shutdown is unnecessarily unnecessary – it calls for a protest rally in Vienna on Saturday.
But in general, the protest against the measure on Thursday was rather quiet – the infection rates are too high, the situation in the hospitals is too dramatic. At least the nursing staff there reacted with relief.
Some say it doesn’t work without a general shutdown. Is it also simply an act of desperation?
You can actually say that. The authorities of Salzburg and Upper Austria have been taken by surprise in the last few days by the enormously increasing number of infections and the many hospital admissions. Over 15,000 new infections were reported in Austria on Thursday, around 40 people die with corona every day.
In the morning there is a traffic jam in the hospitals – the dead have to be temporarily stored in the corridors.
Because the Covid dead are examined by the pathologists when, there is now a traffic jam in the hospitals in the morning, the dead tubs are temporarily stored in the aisles. The conditions in the hospitals in Salzburg are unbelievable. Therefore, the two federal states now pulled the emergency brake.
Why are the numbers in Austria currently increasing so rapidly?
One thing is clear: Austria has the lowest vaccination quota of all Western European countries – and the least vaccinations are in Salzburg and Upper Austria. At the end of September, a new party of opponents of the measures was elected in parliament in the state elections there – that shows how the mood is in the region. This leads to the virus being handled with little care.
One could also interpret the situation as follows: Despite the vaccination, there is a lockdown. Could this also give vaccination skeptics a boost?
That is actually the crux: Many undecided could die. Let the vaccination stay on the grounds that the lockdown will come anyway, even with the vaccination. The politicians in Austria have this fear again and again. From Monday in Salzburg and Upper Austria you will be able to see whether this is actually the case in experiments.
The shutdown in Salzburg and Upper Austria is far from a hard lockdown.
Today the representatives of the federal and state governments meet to discuss how things should go in Austria. Do we have to expect further measures in all of Austria?
That is to be feared. Now that two federal states have overturned, the rest of the country could possibly follow suit. However: The shutdown in Salzburg and Upper Austria is far from a hard lockdown. So there are around 50 reasons why you can leave the apartment. In case of doubt, it is sufficient to justify that one is on the way to go shopping or for a walk.
The interview was conducted by Isabelle Maissen.