In response to the escalating wave of COVID-19 and influenza infections, Health Minister Johannes Rauch of the Greens party issued a crucial advisory on Wednesday, advocating the reimplementation of mask-wearing in specific settings. Rauch stressed the importance of wearing masks, particularly in locations where vulnerable populations, such as older or ill individuals, congregate, including hospitals, nursing homes, and doctor’s offices. He emphasized that this precautionary measure extends to crowded public transport as well.
“We are currently in the middle of a Corona wave, evident from the national wastewater monitoring,” declared Rauch in an official statement. Despite no immediate threat of hospital overload, he highlighted the urgency of proactive measures. The Minister drew attention to the increasing prevalence of influenza, aligning with the surge in COVID-19 cases. Hospital data underscored the current absence of overload concerns, with the dashboard indicating ten individuals in intensive care due to COVID-19 and none for influenza during the 47th calendar week.
Rauch emphasized the broad applicability of mask-wearing as a protective measure against various infectious diseases. He stated, “If you wear a mask, you protect yourself and others. This applies to all infectious diseases for which there are currently more infections.”
In addition to advocating mask usage, the Health Minister made a compelling appeal for citizens to avail themselves of the free COVID-19 vaccination, citing it as the most effective defense against severe illness. He assured the public of sufficient availability of COVID-19 medication. Furthermore, Rauch informed the public about the affordable availability of influenza vaccination across all federal states, primarily through family doctors. The influenza vaccine is particularly recommended for individuals over 60, those with pre-existing conditions, as well as infants and young children.
The Minister’s plea aligns with a broader strategy to combat the rising cases. Encouragingly, he noted that there is currently no fear of hospital overload, providing reassurance amid the ongoing challenges.
In a separate development, the Vienna Health Association (WIGEV) took preemptive measures on Tuesday, implementing stricter protocols within its facilities due to the escalating number of COVID-19 cases. Despite COVID-19 no longer being a reportable disease since July 1st, WIGEV centers now mandate testing for all patients exhibiting symptoms, even if mild. Special emphasis is placed on protecting areas with vulnerable patients in hospitals and nursing homes.
These measures come as a comprehensive response to the evolving situation, underscoring the importance of individual and collective actions in curbing the spread of infectious diseases. The dual focus on mask-wearing and vaccination reflects a proactive stance in mitigating the impact of both COVID-19 and influenza in the community.