Will Austria see a Covid wave this summer, and will face masks make a comeback?
Because of the growing number of Covid-19 cases in Austria, experts and authorities are on high alert for what may happen in the coming weeks.
On Wednesday, Austria recorded 6,869 fresh coronavirus infections, which is more than double the number recorded the previous week.
According to the most recent forecast from the Austrian Covid commission, the rise is observed in the past 2 weeks and is expected to continue. As per projections, the daily new cases might exceed 10,000 in the next week.
Although the number of daily infections remains far below the 60,000 recorded last spring, the upward trend is causing concern among experts and health officials across the nation.
Why is Covid-19 cases rising?
Omicron subvariant BA.4/BA.5 is a significant factor in the increase, according to the commission, because it is more contagious – and may become dominant in the coming weeks.
“In addition, the proportion of cases involving travel has increased in the recent weeks,” the agency added. “An impact of major recent events could not be ruled out,” it continued, presumably referring to Ukraine’s war and the country’s large influx of refugees.
According to Dorothee von Laer, a virologist at Med-Uni Innsbruck, the new subvariant could be the source of a new wave because “the defence we have from BA1 infections and vaccine is not as good against BA.4/BA.5”.
“People who’d been infected early on or those who have only been vaccinated have some protection from hospitalisation but little or no protection from infection,” she predicted. “We should see a wave before the end of the season.”
According to Von Laer, other factors that may have contributed to the increase in numbers include the fact that people stopped wearing a mask after the mandate was lifted in most of Austria.
She also stated that “recent rainy days” had caused people to spend more time indoors. “I believe a variety of factors are at work.”
Will the restrictions imposed by Covid-19 be reinstated?
Many experts believe that as the demand for FFP2 masks increases, they will become mandatory. “We almost certainly will have to use the mask again,” Von Laer predicted, “even when the hospitals are not congested, because we have to protect the most vulnerable individuals.”
Other measures, like social distance and hygiene protocols, she believes, should be reinstated.
“However, I don’t think we’ll need more stringent measures. We must keep an eye on the situation, but it appears promising. We will have a new vaccine for omicron on which we can rely in the coming weeks,” says the virologist.
Do you need a fourth Covid injection?
There is currently no agreement on when to administer a fourth Covid vaccine shot, known as a “second booster.” For those deemed at high risk of serious illness, the National Vaccination Committee (NIG) of Austria has advised a 4th dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
People over the age of 80, as well as those aged 65 to 79, who have a weakened immune system or pre-existing health conditions, are classified as risk groups by the NIG.
The committee is contemplating lowering the proposed age to 65 even for persons with no other health issues.
Anyone, including children, who wants maximum immune protection, according to clinical pharmacologist Markus Zeitlinger of MedUni Vienna, should get vaccinated right away. He advised people not to put off getting a life jacket because a summer storm is approaching.
There is no medical reason, according to Zeitlinger, not to get a vaccine in June and again in October.
Von Laer has a different perspective. She believes that as the number of cases rises, people who are not vaccinated, or have had three vaccinations but are in the vulnerable group should receive the 4th dose in the upcoming days.
“Anyone who’s not vulnerable and has had three vaccinations should be able to wait until the adapted vaccine is approved.” “We anticipate that the new vaccine will be available in September,” she said.