The Ministry of Health is developing a Corona-Alert-System to be able to identify and evaluate potential COVID 19 infection risks and to react promptly. The first draft is in form of a traffic light system and in August, a trial run is expected. The Corona-Alert-System will be based on a 4-stage process:
(1) description of the epidemic situation on the basis of defined indicators on federal, state and district level
(2) evaluation of the epidemic situation and recommendation of classification according to four prevention levels
(3) definition and update of prevention level
(4) (if prevention level is changing) regulation by the Ministry of Health and/or federal state governors
On September 4, the Austrian government presented its official SARS-CoV2-alert system that will guide the country’s regional policies in the coming weeks and months. The corona traffic light system is based on several indicators including: several day incidence of cases, transmission rates, track & trace capacity, hospital capacity and other additional aspects under each of these four dimensions, as well as contextual factors. The regional colours are decided by an advisory board every Thursday with results being published on Friday. At the beginning of September, several cities had been classified as yellow, including Vienna, Graz and Innsbruck and some smaller cities. More detailed information in German is available on the following website: https://corona-ampel.gv.at/
Monitoring of COVID-19 infections is conducted through the epidemiological reporting (EMS-system). New cases with diagnostic laboratory evidence are recorded. Suspected cases are defined by special criteria (see 1.5 testing). Statistical numbers are published on the online dashboard of the Federal Ministry of Health (https://info.gesundheitsministerium.at/).
People who have come into contact with diagnosed people are tracked and have to undergo 14 days of home quarantine (see Section 1.3 Isolation and quarantine). The local health office (local authority level) does contact tracing and monitors quarantine for contacts. People with positive COVID-19 test are asked for names of close contacts. People in quarantine or contacts who are self-isolating are asked to check their temperature and symptoms twice per day. Quarantine ends when a doctor certifies absence of symptoms and there are two negative PCR results spaced 24 hours apart. Responsibility for monitoring compliance with quarantine rests with the local authority. In case of violation of quarantine restrictions (not leaving the house or having visits), there is a EUR 1,450 fine.
An app (“Stopp Corona”) provided by the Austrian Red Cross is available and may be used on a voluntary basis. The app allows users to record who they’ve been in contact with anonymously (via a so-called electronic handshake). If a user develops symptoms of COVID-19, all recorded contact persons receive a notification. Further tracing-systems using data from mobile phones have been discussed but will most likely not become mandatory. However, some telecommunication service providers started to analyse movement profiles of mobile phone users in order to receive an overview of the use of public transport and density of people in public places such as city centres.
On April 21, the definition of risk groups, i.e. groups for whom an infection with Sars-Cov-2 could be particularly dangerous, was presented. These are people with a severe immunodeficiency, with severe diabetes, or a severe cardiovascular or lung disease. It is estimated that about 90,000 persons belong to these risk groups. The respective citizens will receive a letter from social insurance, based on which a physician will carry out a health check and an evaluation of the risk in each specific case. If this evaluation is positive, i.e. the person belongs to one of the risk groups, a medical confirmation is provided (not stating the exact type of illness). With this confirmation, employees may approach their employers to agree upon a home office regulation. If working from home is not possible, either sufficient protective measures need to be ensured at the workplace or a leave has to be granted by the employer with full payment. According to the current law, a person with a COVID-19-risk-certificate could make use of paid leave until May 31, and if there are no new regulations in the meantime, until December 31, 2020 at the longest. Salary costs will be reimbursed to the employer by the employee’s social health insurance fund. The respective law to implement these measures for the protection of risk groups will be passed on April 22, and enter into force on May 4, 2020. Risk groups are not obliged to contact a physician in order to receive a medical certificate stating their risk.