From tomorrow, people infected with the coronavirus can go almost everywhere with a mask, both to work and in their free time. This decision by the federal government is controversial. Communication was chaotic. Political scientist Peter Filzmaier asked health manager Reich and infectiologist Thalhammer.
Peter Filzmaier: Dr Reich, you were – with all due respect – a little wobbly in our conversation last week as to whether the quarantine obligation would be lifted. I understand that you could not foresee the Minister of Health. Now can you explain to me why Ottilie, a normal consumer – working in an open office, two children, elderly parents with possible previous illnesses – should think the abolition of quarantine is a good thing?
Katharina Reich (thinks longer): In your case I think of a friend for whom it was very complicated organizationally during a corona infection. I believe that any simplification brings relief here. You can now leave the apartment with a mask to organize everyday life, for example, to go shopping, and so on. So overall it will be easier.
Professor Thalhammer, you were against lifting the quarantine and instead wanted to shorten it when taking medicines. Do we now have the next best solution at best?
Florian Thalhammer: The scheme is based on the motto: “Wash my fur, but don’t get me wet!” You could have omitted the mask requirement for infected people and just trust that we had too little responsibility for ourselves. Instead, rule in an ordinance that someone is infected and can go to the restaurant, but keep a mask there because they can chat with it without eating… That can’t be!
The majority of experts in the national crisis coordination GECKO say – to quote molecular medicine specialist Andreas Bergthaler: “There is no scientific reason for the end of the quarantine obligation.” Why couldn’t you convince Bergthaler?
Empire: You have to ask him. However, the topic of discussion in the GECKO was less the fear of exploding infection numbers and more the fear that, given the symbolic effect of the abolition of the quarantine, people will unfortunately be vaccinated less and will not take medicine if they get sick.
Well, the GECKO also warns of “unpredictable risks”. I need to talk to you about communication anyway. As a doctor, how did you become aware of the end-of-quarantine arrangement?
thalhammer: At the hospital, I was told that the media is full of a draft scheme that has apparently been leaked.
Why are both a leading epidemic physician and all of us experiencing such a fundamental decision amid the coronavirus pandemic due to an information leak?
Empire: You should ask the politicians that.
That too is a clear answer. SPÖ governors say they will only hear of the end of the quarantine through the media. Unlike the ÖVP heads of countries, they would have to examine the ordinance long after the health minister had signed it. The turquoise-green federal government denies that. What is true?
Empire: That too is beyond the scope of Professor Thalhammer and myself.
We don’t know who is telling the truth here. But it seems impossible to me not to know to whom a draft regulation is being sent or not to know when it will be received. So one politician or the other is telling us falsehoods.
Reich and Thalhammer:
… (Be silent)
Then to a substantive contradiction, how the corona figures develop in the autumn
Thalhammer (interrupts): Do you have a crystal ball? Not me.
Neither do our politicians. The Green Minister of Health Johannes Rauch describes the end of the quarantine as the right balance between health care and social and economic life. The red Viennese alderman for health Peter Hacker objected that in September the number of infected people was flying around us and we were in chaos. Is one of the two not ready to resign soon because Rauch turns out to be a dangerous minor or a hacker turns out to be an irresponsible alarmist?
thalhammer: The problem would be solved if as many people as possible were vaccinated in the autumn and if they took medicines in time when they were sick. But unfortunately I don’t believe in it myself.
The Ministry of Health states that measures and quarantine are being observed less and less. But can a state capitulate because fewer and fewer people are adhering to the rules? I could also abolish the blood alcohol limit in road traffic or the tax law, because there are many drunk drivers and billions are made from undeclared work.
Empire: The consideration is not: “Let’s get rid of everything, you’re not following it anyway!”, but whether quarantine is still the appropriate means to fight the pandemic. My main concern is one thing: at Omikron, many people have almost no or no symptoms at all and are still unable to work. As a result, many countries are using methods other than isolation to fight the pandemic without immediately getting worse.
thalhammer: If you wear a mask without symptoms after a positive test, the chance of infection at work is not great. The problem is contamination in the free time.
The vaccination law has been abolished and the quarantine regulation has been repealed. As a layman, I don’t know if we could use both again with new virus variants. If so, it will formally take a few days in the case of an ordinance and months in the case of laws. But what is realistically imaginable? You have a difficult job as a healthcare manager, but if you in turn have to make political turns and communicate, doesn’t your job become a suicide mission?
Empire: He always has been (laughs). Nevertheless, depending on how the pandemic develops, it is quite realistic that we will have to reintroduce quarantine.
I’m an experienced news author and editor based in New York City. I specialize in covering healthcare news stories for Today Times Live, helping to keep readers informed on the latest developments related to the industry. I have a deep understanding of medical topics, including emerging treatments and drugs, the changing laws that regulate healthcare providers, and other matters that affect public health.