image showing virus cells in the back and "Covid-19 info page" and the ESN logo

Coronavirus announcement and info page

10 March 2020 (last update: 4 July 2020, 1:15 local time)

  • Announcement from ESN Austria
  • General information and recommendations
  • Austria-specific information and recommendations
  • Answers to frequently asked questions
    • General questions on Covid-19
    • Questions on the measures and the situation in Austria
    • University- and exchange-related questions
  • Further information
  • Fake news checks

Please note that we had to archive some text parts that didn't apply anymore so we don't confuse people; you can find the deprecated texs in our Coronavirus info page archive.

 

Announcement from ESN Austria

Erasmus Student Network (ESN) Austria wants to express its solidarity and support with all those who are currently suffering because of COVID-19 and their families. As an association that has among its purposes to promote active citizenship, social inclusion, and health and well-being, we continually underline the importance of the guidelines and measures of the Austrian authorities.

Without any doubt, this is a challenging period for all of us; it's the beginning of the new semester and our activities are focused on welcoming and integrating the exchange students in the cities that will host them for the next months. In an act of responsibility, our sections cancelled events, taking harsher measures than officially required but thereby making important contributions for public health.

We would like to leave a message for all the exchange students who've recently arrived in their new Austrian cities and who are confronted with an extra-ordinary and complex situation: ESN volunteers and buddies are always there to help and support you so you don’t feel alone even if you are far away from home. Your exchange community is a big family and you are part of it.

We are very sorry we currently cannot show you the beauties of our country and organise all the activities that will make your exchange such a unique experience, but we assure you that we are already working on making up for that as soon as this situation is over. We only have to stay strong a little bit longer so we can find a fresh start as a society.

Until then, we would like to wish you all the best

Official announcement from the Erasmus Student Network

 

General information and recommendations

Please note that this is a new and highly contagious disease. However, outbreaks can be managed with appropriate measures (see below), and the vast majority of infected people will recover (Source: European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control).

People of all ages can be infected by the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus. WHO advises people of all ages to take steps to protect themselves and others from the virus. (WHO source)

We therefore advise you to follow the WHO recommendations for the public:

  • Wash your hands frequently: Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
  • Maintain physical distancing: Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
  • Practice respiratory hygiene: Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.

 

   

 

   

 

 

Austria-specific information and recommendations

Stay at home if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and slight runny nose, until you recover. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call the medical hotline 1450 or the AGES hotline 0800 555 621 in advance. If you don't speak German well, you're advised to ask a German-speaker to act as an interpreter for you. (You might also try doing this through programs such as Telegram, WhatsApp, Google Hangouts or Skype phone calls.)  In case you don't know any German-speaker yet, just ask our Austrian ESN sections and they will be ready to help you.

The Austrian population is encouraged to reduce their physical contacts. Only absolutely necessary direct contacts should be maintained; for the rest, please make use of phone calls or other technical possibilities. Everyone can thus make a valuable contribution to combatting the corona virus/Covid-19.

Austrian univerisities will switch to distant/digital learning for the upcoming weeks, starting at the very latest on 16 March; please check your university e-mail inbox and website for further information (see Government measure link, only German).

       

Answers to frequently asked questions

General questions on Covid-19

Why should I reduce my physical contacts and follow the measures?

  • If we reduce our physical contacts by a quarter, this already halves the spread of the virus.
  • The spread of the coronavirus is dangerous for the domestic health system. Especially in hospitals, emergency patients must be able to continue to receive services that are vital for their survival.
  • The spread of the virus mainly affects older people. They are the group most at risk: the discipline of the young helps the elderly. (source: ORF)

 

The effectiveness of physical distancing measures has been well documented in China (WHO-China report); the following graph gives you a good overview of it: protective measures help flatten the curve (the number of cases), thereby reducing the burden for the health care system.

(Graphic by Businessinsider; source: CDC)

 

What is a suspected case?

  • A.) a person with acute respiratory illness (that is, fever and at least one sign or symptom of respiratory disease, for example, cough or shortness of breath) AND with no other cause that fully explains the clinical presentation AND a history of travel to or residence in a country, area or territory that has reported local transmission of COVID-19 disease during the 14 days prior to symptom onset (for updated reporting, see the WHO situation reports); OR
  • B.) a person with any acute respiratory illness AND who has been a contact of a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 disease during the 14 days prior to the onset of symptoms (see the definition of contact below); OR
  • C.) a person with severe acute respiratory infection (that is, fever and at least one sign or symptom of respiratory disease, for example, cough or shortness breath) AND who requires hospitalization AND who has no other cause that fully explains the clinical presentation. (source: WHO guidance; cause = etiology)

 

What is a contact (person) in this case? 

A contact is a person who is involved in any of the following within 14 days after the onset of symptoms in the patient:

  • providing direct care for patients with COVID-19 disease without using proper personal protective equipment;
  • staying in the same close environment as a COVID-19 patient (including sharing a workplace, classroom or household or being at the same gathering);
  • travelling in close proximity with (that is, having less than 1 m separation from) a COVID-19 patient in any kind of means of transport. (source: WHO guidance;)

 

What are typical symptoms?

“As of 20 February 2020 and based on 55924 laboratory confirmed cases, typical signs and symptoms include: fever (87.9%), dry cough (67.7%), fatigue (38.1%), sputum production (33.4%), shortness of breath (18.6%), sore throat (13.9%), headache (13.6%), myalgia or arthralgia (14.8%), chills(11.4%), nausea or vomiting (5.0%), nasal congestion (4.8%), diarrhea (3.7%), and hemoptysis (0.9%), and conjunctival congestion (0.8%).” (WHO-China report, page 11-12)

 

Which groups are mostly at risk?

"The elderly are at the greatest risk of dying if infected with this virus. Based on the data from China – shown in the visualization – 14.8% of those who are 80 years and older who were infected by COVID-19 died as a result. As explained above, these figures represent the share of people diagnosed as having the disease who die from it. This does not represent the share of people in the entire population who die from it." (Source: Our World in Data)

   

"More than 10% of those diagnosed with COVID-19 who already had a cardiovascular disease, died as a result of the virus. Diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases, hypertension, and cancer were all risk factors as well, as we see in the chart (below). Above we saw that the elderly are most at risk of dying from COVID-19. This might be partly explained by the fact that they are also most likely to have underlying health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease and diabetes; these health conditions make it more difficult to recover from the COVID-19 infection." (Source: Our World in Data)

Nevertheless, just because you don't belong to one of the risk groups doesn't mean you shouldn't practice good hygiene and reduce your physical social contacts. Please do so as a sign of solidarity with the people in need; we as a society are all in this together and we and our relatives and loved ones might belong to a risk group, now or in the future.

 

What happens if I've been in contact with a confirmed case, i.e. someone who's been tested positive?

The health authority evaluates the situation and will ask you to reduce your physical contact with other people and, if you've been in close contact, to remain in quarantine. You'll be asked to monitor your health condition and note down the people you've had contact with in a diary for a period of 14 days following the contact with the confirmed case. 

If you show respiratory symptoms or feel ill, please call +43 1450 (see above). (Land Tirol information)

 

I heard there are different phone numbers I can call. Could tell me which one I can call?

  • Do you you need general information on Covid-19? Check out this website and the FAQs of the Ministry of Health. Should you have any further questions, you can call 0800 555 621.
  • Are you worried/anxious about the whole situation? Feel free to call the friends you've already made so far, or ESN volunteers and buddies. Ö3 Kummernummer (116 123), Rat auf Draht (147) and Telefonseelsorge (142) offer additional support but it's not taken for granted that the contact person speaks English (that well).
  • Do you show some of the symptoms (see above, especially fever and cough) and have been in direct contact with a confirmed case or in one of the risk areas? Please call 1450. (Source: Tyrolean Red Cross, adapted)
  • Is there an emergency? Please call 144.
  • Are you an Austrian who is currently abroad and in an emergency situation, needs help travelling back from Italy or has got questions regarding cancellations or the economic/legal situation? Check out the following tweet by Europe Direct Wien.

 

I'm currently in another EU/EFTA country... What is their Covid-19 hotline?

You can find the national number in the following ECDC Covid-19 leaflet.

 

What can I do for body, mind and soul? (Added: 3 April 2020)

We know the current Coronavirus situation proves challenging for society, our social lives and ourselved. There are things you can cannot change/do (getting rid of the virus within a week) and there's actions everyone of us can adopt in their daily lifestyle to deal and overcome the current challenge; besides physical distancing and hygiene measures mentioned above, here's a number of expert tips we collected:

  • Plan practical things
  • Stay connected with family and friends by phone, messaging, video calls or social media
  • Talk about your worries with people you trust
  • Look after your body
  • Stay on top of difficult feelings:
    • concern about the coronavirus outbreak is perfectly normal. However, some people may experience intense anxiety that can affect their day-to-day life. Try to focus on the things you can control, such as how you act, who you speak to and where you get information from. It's fine to acknowledge that some things are outside of your control, but if constant thoughts about the situation are making you feel anxious or overwhelmed, try some ideas to help manage your anxiety. if you need to, don't hesitate to call people through the phone numbers mentioned above.
  • Do not stay glued to the news
    • We hope this website is of good value to you when it comes to be well-informed; feel free to check out further questions, and the links below.
  • Carry on doing things you enjoy
  • Take time to relax
  • Think about your new daily routine
  • Look after your sleep
  • Keep your mind active

These tips were shamelessly copy-pasted from the NHS website and slightly adapted; please check out the website for further information.

the text of this graphic has been mainly covered by the points above
graphic: tips by the Austrian red cross (link)

Further tips:

 

I heard I can protect myself from the Coronavirus/Covid-19 through garlic and by drinking water every 15 minutes...

Well, let's be frank: that's just utter bullshit (see BBC fact check). In general, a balanced diet and drinking water are healthy but provide no effective protection against Covid-19.

We know there's a lot of misinformation spreading on the topic but please refrain from sharing it and tell people what is simply not true; some examples of fake news include (note the patterns):

  • voice messages: A friend of mine did research at the University of ... and what they found out is ... There's clear evidence for that but there has been no major study and the topic so it's just communicated  informally/orally. Please spread the message.
  • forwarded Whatsapp messages without any proper or trustworthy sources

The Austrian Interior Minister explicitly warned about fake news and thanked the media for keeping the population properly informed (source: ORF tvthek).

4 Tips for Spotting Fake News (by Harvard Summer School, adapted)

  1. Vet the publisher’s credibility. (Who is the author? Etc.)
  2. Pay attention to quality and timeliness (i.e. splling erors [sic], lots of ALL CAPS, or dramatic punctuation?!?!?!)
  3. Check the sources and citations.
  4. Ask the pros. Have you visited a fact-checking website? There are many good ones like the WHO myth-busters. At the bottom of the page, you can find the links to further fact checks by the BBC, ORF (Austrian Broadcasting Service) and Mimikama.

Please also check our fake news checks below.

 

Questions on the measures and the situation in Austria

What's the status quo regarding the measures in Austria Austria? (Updated: 4 July 2020)

  • "“Face masks will no longer be compulsory in shops or in school,” Kurz told a news conference, saying the changes would take effect on June 15.
  • Masks will continue to be compulsory on public transport, in health facilities including pharmacies, and at service providers where social distancing cannot be ensured, such as at hairdressers, he added.
  • A limit allowing bars and restaurants to seat no more than four adults at a table will be lifted, and a mandatory closing time of 11:00 p.m. will be extended for two more hours." (Reuters)

We cannot rule out further changes so please check out the following websites:

  • Metropole coronavirus info page (regularly updated news in English)
  • Reuters website (That's where breaking news on the topic are regularly published.)
  • Austrian info website (mainly in German; the English version, especially "What you should know" is currently not up to date but the other information is reliable)
  • Re-open EU: This interactive tool provides you with the information that you need to confidently plan your European travel and holidays, while staying healthy and safe. The information is frequently updated and available in 24 languages for your convenience.

 

Which measure and regulations apply for people travelling to Austria? (Updated: 4 July 2020)

"Austria is lifting checks at its border with Italy and ending quarantine requirements for more than 20 European countries as of June 16, Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said. “We are opening Austria’s borders to all EU, EFTA (European Free Trade Association) and EEA (European Economic Area) states with four notable exceptions - those are Sweden, Great Britain, Spain and Portugal,” Schallenberg told a news conference. He added that since Spain has said it will keep its borders closed until the end of June, the two countries could mutually lift restrictions on July 1. Restrictions on the other three will remain in place for the time being. Health Minister Rudolf Anschober cited Britain and Sweden’s higher infection rates." (Reuters)

"People who have been to coronavirus risk countries (currently Sweden, Great Britain and Portugal) in the last 14 days must present a medical certificate confirming a negative molecular-biological SARS-CoV-2 test result upon entry to Austria. The certificate must be issued by a licensed medical practitioner in German, English, Italian or French and must not be older than 4 days. Changes may apply at any time. Travelers are strongly advised to check whether a health certificate is required upon arrival before the start of their trip. Persons who cannot produce the required medical certificate may be denied entry into Austria (with exceptions for Austrian citizens and permanent residents of Austria) and / or may be subject to further measures according to the Austrian Epidemic Act, such as home quarantine. Furthermore, health authorities may impose health examinations on any person entering or travelling through Austria." (source: formerly Austrian embassy website; adapted on the basis of the Austrian info website to reflect the changes)

Please check the following websites (and remain in touch with your home university) since the information listed above might have changed:

 

How many cases are there in Austria?

You can find the lates information on global or country-specific data in the WHO Coronavirus dashboard. On the Our World in Data website there are additional data and a more detailed explatation of the growth rate.

Regional data for Austria can be found on the ORF website. (krank = ill; Infizierte ges. = number of people tested positive; Todesfälle = number of casualties; genesen = recovered).

 

Am I required to install the the Stopp Corona app by the Austrian Red Cross? (Added: 5 April 2020)

  • General information about the Stopp Corona app: It will probably take some time before we can shake hands hands when greeting each other again. In the meantime, you could simply use the digital handshake of the “Stop Corona” app: if you and the person you meet have installed the app, you can select each other in the app. If somebody becomes infected with Corona, they can simply submit a message via the app and their contacts from the last 48 hours will be notified anonymously. The same applies, of course, in reverse. (source: Google Play)
  • App usage: The app is an addition to physical distancing measures, good hygiene practices, etc. but does not replace them.
  • You're currently not required to install the app but from a health/safety perspective, it makes sense to install it and exchange a handshake each time you get close to a person.
  • Pros and cons of the app: the app was developed with the privacy by design principle in mind and safeguards users' privacy. Compared to many other apps on our smartphones, there are neither advertisements nor constant tracking. Furthermore, you're informed about your rights as a data subject in line with the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Some cons of the app are that it was financed by the Uniqa Foundation, an organisation close to a private health insurance, was programmed and is operated by Accenture, and that the service is hosted in Microsoft's Azure Cloud. (Source: Epicenter works)

Our volunteers are currently testing the app and its funcionality and will update this page based on their experiences.

Further information:

 

Can I order food online through Austrian supermarkets?

Of course you can also order products online:

  • Through the BILLA online shop, you can get your food delivered right to your door. They currently waive the service charge but a minimum order of 40 euros is required.
  • On the Interspar online shop, you can also order food and choose to have it delivered to your address or pick it up at a special pick-up box. A service charge of 4.90 euros per delivery applies (see SPAR FAQs). This Interspar sho mainly covers Vienna, Salzburg (town and federal state), Lower Austria and Burgenland (see SPAR FAQs); there might also be Spar franchise shops offering a similar sercive in your vicinity.
  • In Tyrol you can also order food on the MPREIS online shop and order it right to your door (service fee of 5€ for orders below 100€) or to pick it up at a special box (service fee of 1€ for orders below 100€) (see FAQs).

Please note that food ordered online might take some time to be delivered. Furthermore, several Austrian supermarkets announced that their warehouses are full and that there is no supply shortage; the same applies to pharmacies. (Source: ORF)

 

University- and exchange-related questions

    I've got a question regarding my exchange ... What should I do? (Updated: 1 April 2020)

     

    I heard Austrian universities were closed. Could you tell me more? (Updated: 16 April 2020)

    "By March 16 2020 at the latest, all universities will be converted from classroom to distance learning. In most cases, this means that the university buildings are closed for all students. In some cases, however, exams will continue to be held. The research work is to be largely continued.

    Large local differences (holding exams, opening libraries) can now be identified. That is [the Austrian Students' Union has] created this page with general and university-specific information. This information is updated regularly and expanded with new information."

    Please find all furhter details on your university on the aforementioned info page by the Austrian Students' Union.

    The blueprint for the upcoming months:

    University life will partly resume from the beginning of May:

    • Normal courses will continue to be carried out digitally/by means of distance learning until the end of June.
    • The extent to which non-substitutable practical courses (e.g. laboratory exercises, individual artistic lessons) can be offered during this semester, potentially including the summer months, will be examined.
    • Where possible, exams should continue to be held by making use of technology or be established accordingly. Exam formats that cannot be designed digitally or "in distance" can take place physically provided the corresponding requirements are met (in particular to hygiene measures, physical distancing, limitation of the number of people, mouth and nose protection).
    • For the university libraries, the modified operation should be returned to a “normal” lending operation in a timely manner, while respecting all the rules of safety and conduct; however, reading rooms should remain closed.
    • Research will continue to be carried out as far as the local situation allows. Where research activities had largely been discontinued, they are to be restarted step by step, depending on local conditions and possibilities, and in compliance with all safety and conduct rules.
    • In any case, the necessary rules of conduct continue to apply in the university sector (physical distancing, limiting the number of people, mouth and nose protection, etc.).

    (Source: info letter by the Minister of Education, Science and Research)

     

    I’m an Austrian citizen and have got a question regarding my Studienbeihilfe or another bursary.

    The Austrian Students' Union announced the following: "As your advocacy group, we are committed to ensuring that no student has disadvantages due to the switch to distance learning. We urge politicians to suspend the performance requirements for family and study grants this semester." We've got this piece of information from the Students' Union info page and you can also find further information there. The final results will presumably be announced through newsletters and social media posts of the Students' Union.

     

     

    Further information:

    General information

     

    News coverage in English

     

    Information from Federal States of Austria

     

    Donations to health organisations

    • World Health Organization (WHO) -- COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fundraiser for WHO: Your donation to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund supports the World Health Organization's global efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Facebook is matching the first US $10 million donated, so each contribution goes further. Donations support efforts to track and understand the spread of the virus; to ensure patients get the care they need and frontline workers get essential supplies and information; and to accelerate efforts to develop vaccines, tests, and treatments. We're all in this fight together.
    • Austrian Red Cross Fundraiser: The Red Cross team informs people, brings them to hospitals, provides support in goods logistics and works on prevention. Please support them with your donation so they can work together to protect and care for the people in our country.
    • Feel free to check if the Red Cross or Red Crescent Society of your country also requested donations.

     

    Social Media posts of ESN Austria on the topic:

     

    Fake news checks

    European information on disinformation: (Added: 30 March 2020)

     

    BBC reality check (Updated: 30 March 2020)

     

    Further reality checks (in German):

     

    P.S.: If you feel some vital information is missing or have got a question that hasn't been covered by the information above, feel free to contact us!