Austrian ban on meetings helps justify ECR postponement

By Philip Ward, AuntMinnieEurope.com staff writer

March 12, 2020 -- Austria banned all indoor events with more than 100 participants on Tuesday, 10 March, providing apparent vindication of the decision made a week earlier by the European Society of Radiology (ESR) to postpone ECR 2020.

"The ECR 2020 with its original date from March 11-15 falls under the scope of this ban," noted a statement posted on the ESR home page on 11 March. "In anticipation of this aggravation of the COVID-19 epidemic and related restrictive measures by the Austrian government, the ECR 2020 was postponed to July 15-19, 2020, on Tuesday, March 3."

The Austrian Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection announced the ban in the form of a new decree. It also restricts outdoor events of more than 500 people until 3 April 2020. The document, "Erlass nach § 15 Epidemiegesetz (Untersagung von Veranstaltungen)," is available on the government website.

Austria has also prohibited entry to anyone arriving from Italy without a health certificate, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on 10 March. Austria earlier issued a level 6 travel safety warning, advising its citizens against travel to Italy. Austrians in Italy will still be allowed to travel home if they agree to spend two weeks in self-isolation.

ESTRO 2020 gets rescheduled

The organizers of another major medical congress in Vienna have been forced to reschedule an upcoming event. The colocated European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology (ESTRO) 2020 and the World Congress of Brachytherapy (WCB) was due to begin on 3 April, but the conference is now due to take place from 31 July to 4 August 4 in Vienna.

"This decision aims to minimize the health risks related to the spreading of COVID-19 and to address the increasing inability to travel for speakers and attendees. Considering these implications, we believe that postponing the congress is the best solution to allow participants to attend safely and maintain the high level of quality of the scientific program," noted a statement released by ESTRO. "This decision has not been made lightly."

Meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus continues to rise steadily in Austria. By the morning of 11 March, a total of 206 people had tested positive, 50 of whom are in Vienna and 45 in Lower Austria, the Vindobona Vienna International News service reported.

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, the number of passengers at Vienna International Airport has dropped sharply, Vindobona added. So far in March, there has been a decline in passenger numbers of around 30% compared to the same period last year.


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