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What will happen with the pandemic in Austria in 2022?
As we neared the end of 2021, Covid-19 was showing no signs of slowing down in Austria with the Omicron variant. But experts believe the pandemic could come to an end in 2022.
Published: 23 December 2021 17:14 CET Updated: 2 January 2022 08:34 CET
People wait in front of a vaccination bus during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, as Austria's government has imposed a lockdown on people who are not fully vaccinated, in Vienna, Austria, November 18, 2021. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
Austria might be out of lockdown but that doesn’t mean the pandemic is over – not yet anyway – with experts warning of a wave of Omicron infections in the new year.
Here’s what could happen with the pandemic in 2022.
Early 2022 expected to be dominated by Omicron
Austria’s Covid forecast consortium believes the Omicron variant will become dominant in Austria in mid-January, while the country will see record high infection rates by the end of the month.
With Omicron able to spread between two and three times as fast as Delta, the commission assumes “that the Omicron variant will become dominant within a few weeks and, if the increase continues unchecked, could exceed the previous high of daily new infections in January 2021”.
The commission however said that hospitalisation rates were likely to be lower due to the fact 70 percent of the public now are either fully vaccinated (including booster) or have recently recovered from the virus.
Virologist Norbert Nowotny warned people to be especially careful during the first few weeks of 2022 due to the increased risk of infection from the Omicron variant – even in vaccinated people.
Nowotny said: “This will be the highest wave we have ever had. We have to go through it.”
However, epidemiologist Hans-Peter Hutter said that Omicron is less virulent and called for calm, as opposed to spreading “poison” through panic. Hutter also said an Omicron wave should not overload the healthcare system as infections will be milder.
This aligns with recent research from the UK that suggests Omicron is not as dangerous as previous variants, like Delta, with the risk of hospitalisation 40 percent lower.
Despite these findings though, crisis prevention expert Herbert Saurugg raised concerns with the panel that if many people become sick and can’t work, there could be a risk to critical infrastructure in Austria.
As a result, Saurugg predicts supply chain bottlenecks could start to appear in the coming days and advises households to have a supply of food, water and medication for 14 days.
Additionally, virologist Nowotny is urging the Austrian Federal Government to prepare for a new wave of infections as he believes unreported Omicron cases could be ten times higher.
Could 2022 be the year the pandemic ends?
Thankfully, there is some good news (and we definitely need it).
Once the predicted Omicron wave has passed in early 2022, Nowotny expects Covid-19 to become endemic in Austria, which means the disease will become a part of life and will no longer be a crisis due to a milder infection in most people.
If this happens, Nowotny believes that by autumn 2022 the pandemic could be coming to an end.
This is a view echoed by experts around the world, including Microsoft co-founder and billionaire health philanthropist Bill Gates who recently published an article predicting Covid-19 will become endemic in most parts of the world next year.
Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased
The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights
Published: 11 May 2022 16:17 CEST
Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.
The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.
The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.
It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.
“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement.
“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”
ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants.
“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal.
“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission.
“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”