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World News

Austria's COVID-19 intensive care beds could be full in two weeks - minister

Austria's Health Minister Rudolf Anschober gestures during the budget speech in the parliament amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Vienna, Austria October 14, 2020. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner/Files

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria warned on Friday that all its COVID-19 intensive care beds could be full within two weeks because of the “much stronger, more serious” second wave of coronavirus infections.

There was a sharp drop to 6,464 new infections within 24 hours from a record 7,416 the day before, but Health Minister Rudolf Anschober said the number was still alarming.

“The second wave is much stronger, more serious, more dynamic and more powerful,” he told a news conference.

Forty-one people died in the latest reporting period, and 421 were in intensive care.

Since Tuesday, a nighttime curfew has been in force and cafes, bars and restaurants are closed to all but take-away service. Factories, shops, kindergartens and primary schools remain open, while secondary schools and universities have switched to distance learning.

The director general of the National Public Health Institute, Herwig Ostermann, said his projections indicated that, even with these measures in place, 750 of Austria’s 800 intensive care beds reserved for COVID-19 patients were likely to be filled by Nov. 18.

Tracing the source of a coronavirus infection has become harder and is being achieved in only 27% of cases, said Daniela Schmid, chief epidemiologist at Austria’s Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES).

The average age of those infected is currently 43, she said.

Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Michelle Adair and Editing by Kevin Liffey

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