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

Coronavirus announcement and info page

Survey on the impact of Covid19: please fill it out on: https://esn.org/covidimpact

10 March 2020 (last update: 30 March 2020, 15:59)

  • 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

 

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

ESN is also carrying out a survey on the impact of Covid-19 on student mobility to understand the situation better and help stakeholders solve the problems you are currently facing. Plase fill it out through the following link: https://esn.org/covidimpact

 

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 social 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 social 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 social contacts and follow the measures?

  • If we reduce our social 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 social 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.

 

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.

 

Questions on the measures and the situation in Austria

What did the Austrian government announce on 30 March?

General announcements:

  • The infection rate is slightly slowing down but more needs to be achieved: we’ve already made a few kilometres of the marathon but there’s some way ahead of us.
  • Thanks to all those following the measures, they are life saviours.

 

New measures:

  • Face masks: "Austria will require shoppers to wear basic face masks in supermarkets in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus. As of the moment these masks are handed out in front of supermarkets it will be compulsory to wear them in supermarkets." The government said this mesaure is an addition to physical distancing, i.e. doesn't replace it.
  • More protection for risk groups: the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions (see graphics above)
  • The executive powers will enforce the measures are followed more strictly.
  • Hotels: Austria is banning the use of hotels for tourism.

Sources: Reuters (masks), Reuters (hotels), ORF, ORF tvthek

 

What did the Austrian government announce? (Updated: 20 March 2020)

"Austria’s chancellor announced major restrictions on movement in public places on [15 March], banning gatherings of more than five persons and urging Austrians to self-isolate, as well as putting further limits on who can enter the country.

  • The restrictions on public movement and gatherings will come into force on Monday, while restaurants are ordered closed from Tuesday, when new restrictions on entering the country will also take effect, a government spokesman said.
  • People should stay at home; the following cases are exempt from this measure:
    • leaving the house for work; at the workplace, people have to keep a distance of at least 1 metre (3 feet)
    • leaving the home for buying daily necessities; at the respective supermarket/pharmacy/etc., people have to keep a distance of at least 1 metre (3 feet)
    • leaving the house to support and/or care for people in need
    • when it is necessary to avert an immediate danger to life, limb and property
    • when public places urgently/necessarily need to be entered alone, with other people living in the same household or with a pet; people have to keep a distance of at least 1 metre (3 feet) (see RIS BKA VO)
  • Gatherings of more than five people will be allowed only for activities serving to fight the coronavirus outbreak, the chancellor’s office added.
  • Austria also expanded its list of countries from which it restricts entry, adding Britain, the Netherlands, Russia and Ukraine. It said people traveling from countries on the list could enter only if they undertook two weeks of home quarantine after entering the country or had a current health certificate. Austria has already closed its borders to most arrivals from neighbouring Switzerland and Italy because of the coronavirus outbreaks there and previously announced other measures, such as shutting schools and most shops other than those selling food and medicine from Monday.
  • It said on Saturday it was making 4 billion euros (3.62 billion pounds) immediately available to deal with the economic fallout from the pandemic." (Source: Reuters; slightly changed to specify the exemptions)

"Austria will extend its coronavirus restrictions until April 13, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on [March 20]." (Source: Reuters)

People who do not obey the Austrian Corona Measure Act may have to pay a fine of up to 3,600 euros (see Parliament decision, Art. (8), § 3)

 

Which measures did the Federal government of Tyrol announce? (Updated: 20 March 2020)

Starting on 15 March, nobody should leave their home without a proper reason; Proper reasons include

  • Covering your basic needs: going to the supermarket or the pharmacy/doctor for necessary reasons; getting money from the ATM
  • Commuting to work; but people are encouraged to telework;
  • Getting supplies (see first point) for people that are unable to do so

Compliance will checked by the police forces. (source: press release by the Federal government of Tyrol)

The Federal government later on announced the following:

  • People should stay in their town/village, unless it's absolutely necessary on the basis of the proper reasons listed above.
  • Leaving one's own home must be kept to an absolutely necessary minimum in terms of time and distance.
  • The measures are in furce until 5 April at midnight (source: Federal State of Tyrol)

See Reuters reporting: Austrian province of Tyrol on lockdown.

According to ORF, going for a walk is allowed within the town/village boundaries.

Furthermore, it's forbidden to gather and stay at the promenade along the river Inn (from Uni bridge until the Freiburger bridge from 16 March onwards. Cycling and walking along is allowed. (Source: Facebook announcement by the mayor and the info website).

If you've been tested days ago in Tyrol and need your results, please call +43 512 508 80 13 12.

 

Which measures did the Austrian government announce on 13 March?

"The Austrian government is advising people to refrain from contacting friends and family and to keep conversations to the telephone instead. The objective is to halt the growth of the Coronavirus/COVID-19. (Source: orf.at)

Austria’s chancellor told the press that Austria is taking 3 kinds of measures in our daily lives for the next 14 days:

  • The government requests that, if at all possible, companies should have their staff work remotely from home.
  • Starting on Monday, bars, restaurants and cafes will be closed after 15:00.
  • Some stores will be closed, but the following categories are exempt from closures (Source: orf.at):
    • Grocery stores, delivery services; tobacco shops and newsagents
    • public transport
    • banks, post offices, petrol stations; and offices of legal practitioners
    • pharmacies; drug strores; sale of medical and sanitary products; emergency services
    • veterinary services; sale of animal feed; agricultural trade of various forms
    • health and care services; services for people with disabilities provided by the Federal states;
    • 9. sale and maintenance of safety and emergency products
    • hygiene and cleaning services; waste management companies; car repair shops (Source: Verordnung by the Ministry)


All flights from affected countries have been halted (Italy, France, Spain and Swizerland); train travel to those countries is also affected. Exclusions apply (will be updated).

After a swift spreading of the virus in Tyrol, the areas of Paznauntal and St. Anton am Arlberg are now under quarantine for the next 14 days. Foreign visitors to the areas can leave, Austrians will be confined to the areas. The inhabitants will be taken care of (with food, necessities and medication) by the state for the next 14 days. (Source: orf.at) (Whole paragraph source: Metropole; text slightly adapted based on a transcript of the official announcement and the legal text)

 

Which measure and regulations apply for people travelling to Austria? (Updated: 24 March 2020)

"Third-country nationals (non-EU/EEA/CH citizens) who have been to coronavirus risk areas listed on the website of the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (currently France, Iran, Italy, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland and parts of China) in the last 14 days must present a medical certificate confirming a negative molecular-biological SARS-CoV-2 test result upon entry to Austria. Moreover, all individuals regardless of their citizenship are required to preset such a medical certificate when entering Austria from Italy, as well as Switzerland and Liechtenstein (from March 16). 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 (regulation in German only).

(source: Austrian embassy website; further information can be found there)

We try our best to keep this section up to date but please check the following websites since the information listed above might have changed:

 

Which restrictions apply to public gatherings? (Updated: 15 March 2020)

"People should only leave the house for work that could not be postponed, to buy necessary food supplies and to help others. Gatherings of more than five people will be allowed only for activities serving to fight the coronavirus outbreak. People who urgently want to go into the outdoors “may do so, but only alone or with people living in the same apartment,” Austrian chancellor Kurz told Austrian news service APA." (Source: Reuters)

 

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).

 

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: 30 March 2020)

    Are you on Erasmus+? Please check out the anncouncement by the European Commission: Corona Virus: Consequences for Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps mobility activities.

    For further information "please contact the international office at your home university and – if you are receiving a grant/scholarship from the Austrian Exchange Service (OeAD) – the Austrian Exchange Service at [email protected] or by phone on +43 1 53408 444.

    Information on mobility funding from the Austrian Exchange Service (OeAD): In general, mobility programmes will continue to be funded as before. Participants have the option to cancel current stays (outgoing) or upcoming stays in or from affected countries (incoming and outgoing). Under certain circumstances (e.g. costs not reimbursed by travel cancellation insurance), any costs incurred may be claimed from the Austrian Exchange Service on the basis of cancellation due to force majeure provided that evidence of these costs is submitted. The Austrian university or research institution will decide whether to cancel periods abroad in consultation with the individuals involved and the partner institutions." (source: Ministry of Education)

    The involved parties understand that it's a difficult situation and will try to find a workable solution with you (OeAD); a lenient/tolerant stance will be taken as regards the Erasmus+ mobility requirement to prove 3 ECTS credits/month upon completion of the period abroad.

    Webinar and Q&A: The European Students' Union (ESU) and the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) hosted a webinar with the European Commission to address the most pressing questions for Erasmus+ students and trainees. The recording of the webinar, as well as the transcription, is available on the ESN website (link)

    EU fact sheet: COVID-19 - essential practical advice on Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps mobility

    Further information on force majeure can be found in documents like Erasmus+ for Higher Education  Students and Staff: Frequently Asked Questions (> 37.), the Erasmus+ Programme Guide (search for "majeure") and your Erasmus+ agreement.

    We're sorry that most of this paragraph is about Erasmus+ and not about other exchange opportunities like Fulbright, etc. but we've got more information on that. In any case, please check your uni e-mail account regularly since your home university or your sending organisation will probably send you all the necessary details.

     

    I heard Austrian universities were closed. Could you tell me more?

    "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.

     

    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!