ÖAustria is currently experiencing a déjà vu: almost to the day, as in the previous year, a hard lockdown has to be imposed again. However, this time it could have been prevented by proactive measures. But the opposite was the case. In mid-June, ex-Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP), who was still in office at the time, announced, against his better judgment, the near end of the pandemic and promised a “summer like back then”. With the effect that the Austrian population ignored all precautionary measures. No more gaps, no more masks – with the exception of Vienna, where Mayor Michael Ludwig (SPÖ) was able to implement more effective measures thanks to the federalist principle, so that the big city can show much better corona values than the rest of Austria, where the incidence figures in some places are the 2000s Approaching the limit.
The vaccination campaign is making slow progress, especially in rural regions, but also in traditional working-class districts of Vienna such as Floridsdorf, Favoriten or Simmering, where the proportion of migrants is particularly high. In such areas, the vaccination rate is often below 50 percent, even lower than the already shameful national average of around 66 percent. Apparently, even after almost two years of pandemic, politics did not find any explanatory language for the rural population or for immigrants.
The government did not act against all warnings
In addition, in addition to the false prophet Kurz, another right-wing populist is vying for popular favor – the new FPÖ federal party leader Herbert Kickl. The vaccination opponent and mask refuser never tire of irresponsibly demonizing all measures against the corona pandemic, even in such a critical situation as now he started a large demonstration in Vienna and recommended deworming agents for horses to combat Covid-19, which two blind believers did already promoted to intensive care units.
Instead of counteracting such irrationalism with a resolute educational campaign, the turquoise-green government of Austria remained silent for a long time and did not act despite the warnings issued by leading virologists since the end of August. In the middle of last week, when three quarters of all intensive care beds kept ready for corona patients were already occupied, the new Federal Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg and Salzburg’s Governor Wilfried Haslauer (both ÖVP) steadfastly refused to take tougher measures. A lockdown only had to be imposed after lengthy crisis consultations with an expert staff, which will apply from November 22nd until December 12th.
“Here culture pays the bill for others”
This hits – in addition to trade, tourism, gastronomy and many service providers – all of Austria’s cultural establishments particularly hard, because they hardly have the opportunity to compensate a little for lost ideas through internet sales. “Here culture pays the bill for others,” said Bernhard Günther, the director of Wien Modern, commenting on the dreary situation. For the second time in a row, the traditional music festival has to be canceled despite strict compliance with the 2-G plus rule. This time at least after two thirds of the program and not right at the beginning like last year. But the frustration is great. All of the planning work behind events was in vain; their later staging is mostly impossible because of the artists from all over the world.
Christian Kircher, managing director of the Bundestheater-Holding, estimates that the twenty-day closing time for the Vienna State and Volksoper and the Burgtheater will cost around four million euros. The total loss, including all federal state theaters, concert halls, museums and the many smaller organizers, is difficult to quantify. After all, State Secretary for Culture Andrea Mayer (The Greens) promised an extension of all existing Corona aid for the culture industry – but until this is granted, a number of small businesses and, above all, the many freelance artists are likely to be bankrupt.
This is all the more tragic as the situation could have been alleviated by faster and more stringent measures. Only Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein (Die Grünen) found words of excuse for the disastrous performance of the government in a press conference last Friday. In view of the limitation of the fourth lockdown, the next déjà vu is already looming: After a Christmas break, Austria’s population had to be quarantined again for months in January 2021.
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