Austria entered the third lockdown. The chancellor forewarned of a “gloomy first quarter” of the year. Yet Austrians are finding ways to handle this situation and be happy. Here is a look at how the Austrian government, businesses, and schools are coping with the COVID-19 situation and a forecast of Austria’s outlook for 2021.
Quick response to COVID-19
The Austrian government demonstrated its ability and will to deal with the COVID-19 crisis. The lockdowns are evidence of the Austrian government’s quick response to the situation. During the first COVID-19 wave the Austrian government decided to initiate a hard lockdown after only 1 confirmed death, on March 16, 2020. This was a much faster response than other EU countries. Spain for example, initiated lockdowns when the death toll was in the hundreds.
The first lockdown in Austria ended on April 20. As a result of this timely response the country reported no additional COVID-19 deaths during the following weeks. After confirming the start of a second wave of infection, the government initiated another hard lockdown in November 2020. This served to minimize the number of COVID-19 infection cases and to relive the pressure on hospitals. The third lockdown is a continuation of the second. It is a precautionary measure to reduce the number of infected cases still further. COVID-19 vaccination in Austria began on December 27. It is expected that the number of COVID-19 cases will dwindle down to nothing within a few months.
Vast communities of migrants live and work in Austria. They regularly send remittances back to their home countries via the Ria Money Transfer App and similar channels. Businesses in Austria, as elsewhere, were hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis. Now the situation is improving. Austria’s central bank reported that the country’s GDP shrank by 11.6% from Q1 to Q2 2020. However from Q2 to Q3 the GDP recorded a 12% rise. Businesses such as restaurant, shopping malls, and non-essential retail were mandatorily closed during the first lockdown. Owing to restrictions on going out, 40% of Austrians worked from home (home-office, telework, etc.). This was a significant increase compared to the pre-pandemic figure of 10%. The sudden deviation from normal initially caused much inconvenience and loss of productivity. However, employers and employees are both getting used to this new normal. Working from home has been facilitated by the wide availability of tools for video conferencing, teamwork, tracking, and communication.
Working from home also brought some unforeseen advantages, such as commuting time saved. With some creativity, home-office can work for some jobs usually considered to be strictly outdoorsy. One example is that of Austrian professional mountain biker and YouTuber Fabio Wibmer. During the lockdown he shot biking videos for his YouTube channel at home. In general Austrians are getting used to the new situation, and the economy is set to recover quickly.
Schools and students in Austria have also shown their adaptability to the new situation. During the lockdowns kindergartens, schools, and universities in Austria were closed for in-person classes. Students and teachers moved to remote schooling via online platforms. The EU’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) conducted a research project named Kid’s Digital Lives in COVID-19 Times (KiDiCoTi). It’s goal was to analyze how children and parents were coping with the lockdowns. The study found that remote schooling was quite successful in Austria. Students and teachers maintained regular communication. Half of the Austrian secondary students interacted weekly with their teachers. These interactions were made possible because most students are well-equipped with digital devices and excellent internet connectivity.
A majority of parents supported their children’s learning activities. Both students and parents reported positive effects of remote schooling. These include improved digital skills and more overall autonomy and self-regulation for students. Given the success of remote schooling in Austria during the first lockdown, Austrians are ready to handle more lockdowns if necessary with little or no adverse impact to academics.
Despite multiple lockdowns Austrians have shown resilience and an overall positive response to the COVID-19 situation. The Austrian government, business, and schools proved that they can adapt to the new circumstances. With the start of vaccination and the crisis dissipating, 2021 in Austria is expected to be anything but gloomy.
About the author:
Hemant G is a contributing writer at Sparkwebs LLC, a Digital and Content Marketing Agency. When he’s not writing, he loves to travel, scuba dive, and watch documentaries.