Many expected this: with significantly lower temperatures, the numbers of coronavirus infections are increasing again. The number of active cases has increased dramatically in the past few days: from Tuesday to Wednesday, there were more than 2,000 new confirmed infections in Lower Austria.
In hospitals, too, the numbers have recently increased again. There are currently 224 infected people in the Lower Austria hospital, 12 of whom must be treated in intensive care units. However, epidemiologist Gerald Gartliner of the Danube University in Krems assumes that this winter will be milder than it has been in the past two years – as long as the omicron variable is kept.
noe.ORF.at: Professor Gartliner, this increase is perhaps not surprising. What do you expect in the coming weeks?
Gerald Gartliner: No, it’s not surprising, it’s exactly what we expected that the number of injuries would increase again with the onset of the cold season. There are probably two reasons for the rapidly increasing numbers right now: on the one hand, more infections, more people inside again, but they are also testing more and more patients again. I think this trend will continue over the next few weeks as well. It is not possible to predict whether there will actually be a wave and how high this wave will be at the moment.
noe.ORF.at: Let’s remember last winter, there was a shortage of staff in critical infrastructure, in hospitals. Can we get to this point again?
Gartliner: I think we’re in a very different situation this year than last year. If we remember last year we had a delta wave, it was really an acute form of coronavirus infection. Now we still have Omikron and we have built a very good level of immunity in the population over the course of this year. This means that we are entering this coming winter much more protected than last year.
noe.ORF.at: At the moment we do not have measures for coronavirus, for example no mask requirements. Do you think some of the measures will come back in the coming weeks and months?
Gartlehner: Wearing a mask always makes sense if you want to protect yourself. Masks are really one of the most effective measures. I think there’s one instance where hospitals might be really stressed, and that’s when the flu pandemic and the coronavirus pandemic coincide and then more hospital admissions. Then you will probably have to resubmit the mask requirements. But I don’t think Omicron alone would make all this bad, which is where things stand at the moment.
noe.ORF.at: Some experts believe the end of the pandemic is slowly looming, while others say they expect a very strong winter wave. What is your rating?
Gartliner: The coronavirus will stay with us and we have to be prepared to deal with it. We’re really lucky in the fall because there aren’t any new variants, and still Omikron, it’s relatively mild in terms of progress. We’ve built up a great deal of immunity in the population. I’m not too worried about the coming weeks and months unless another variable comes up and comes back to us.
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