Policy responses for Austria - HSRM


Policy responses for Austria

1.5 Testing

To strengthen the Austria tourism, the Ministry of Tourism started a nationwide COVID-19 testing initiative for the staff of accommodation providers. As of July 1, the testing for employees in tourist accommodation is voluntary and the Federal Government covers the costs till the end of the summer season (end of October).

Sources: https://www.bmlrt.gv.at/tourismus/tourismuspolitische-themen/testungen.html https://www.oehv.at/themen-recht/corona/flaechendeckende-covid-19-tests/

Currently the criteria for testing are as followed:

- persons with acute symptoms (cough, fever, respiratory problems) and,
- person was in a high-risk area during the past 14 days or had  direct contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case

People who meet these criteria have to contact the hotline 1450 which initiates further steps such as home visits and testing.
Furthermore, doctors may recommend testing upon assessment of a patient’s clinical status. Testing is mainly conducted at home. Some drive-through stations have also been implemented.

Testing capacity has been extended from a few hundred tests per day at the end of February to up to 6,000 tests per day at the end of March. Up to April 8, in total about 115,000 tests had been conducted. To increase testing capacity tests are evaluated in different laboratories. By March 30, more than 40 laboratories provided analyses of COVID-19 tests. The target is to increase testing capacity up to 15,000 tests per day.

Random sample tests will be conducted to obtain a more accurate picture of the spread of COVID-19 among health workers as well as in the general Austrian population. In early April, 2,000 randomly selected people have been tested, results will be published in mid-April. The random tests were conducted by the SORA Institute who contacted 2,000 randomly selected candidates in regions affected by the virus; 1544 of the candidates were tested. Based on the study, the prevalence of the infection in the non-hospitalized population was recalculated, resulting in an estimate around 0.33%. The results were announced on April 10.

On April 16, the Minister of Health announced plans to test all personnel and inhabitants in the nation's retirement and nursing homes, as part of an increase and targeting in their testing strategy. He cited both medical studies and international experience showing that nursing homes are at greater risk as justification for this policy, which would test around 130,000 people in 918 retirement and care facilities. As of April 11, Austria had already run 140,000 tests within the general population.

Since mid-April a stay in a high-risk area in the preceding 14 days is no longer obligatory to be tested. Currently the criteria considered to confirm cases are as follows:

- Clinical criteria: persons with acute symptoms with or without fever with at least one of the following symptoms for which there is no other plausible explanation: cough, sore throat, respiratory problems (cough, fever, respiratory problems) and loss of sense of smell,
- Diagnostic criteria: Proof of SARS-CoV-2 via PCR testing
- Suspected cases are all those who fulfil clinical criteria. With respective diagnosis (laboratory or X-ray) and/or other infectious-epidemiological indicators present (e.g. preceding contact with a SARS-CoV-2 case, person visited an area with virus activity in the past 14 days), also other symptoms are considered as relevant (e.g. nausea, diarrhea).