Austria’s powerful Constitutional Court has demanded detailed data from the Government Health Ministry justifying the coronavirus response. News.com.au has the story.
The 14-member court issued 10 sets of questions to the Health Ministry on January 26th in order to prepare for a “possible oral hearing” into a number of complaints it has received against Austria’s COVID-19 measures.
The Health Ministry has until February 18th to respond.
Austria plans to ease some restrictions from Tuesday as its nationwide vaccine mandate, the first in Europe, comes into effect.
But in order to justify his Government’s heavy-handed rules, the court has asked Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein to provide data across a broad range of topics including hospitalisations and deaths ‘with’ as opposed to ‘from’ COVID-19, the efficacy of masks and vaccines, and evidence supporting the now-rescinded ‘lockdown for the unvaccinated’.
“The ‘lockdown for the unvaccinated’ is likely to be based, among other things, on the consideration that persons without Covid vaccination have a higher risk of hospitalisation than vaccinated persons, which is likely to entail a higher risk for the healthcare system,” the court wrote.
“What is the effect of the ‘lockdown for the unvaccinated on the hospital burden, expressed in percentages?”
The court asked for information on which virus variants were associated with these numbers, a breakdown by age cohort, and for “percentage allocation” outlining where infections occurred, such as family, work, shopping or leisure activities.
Another question asked, “By what factor does wearing an FFP2 mask indoors or outdoors reduce the risk of infection or transmission?”
A number of other questions related to vaccines, with the court requesting data on their efficacy in reducing severe illness, preventing transmission, and the durability of protection.
“By what factor does Covid vaccination reduce the risk of severe disease?” the court wrote.
“In media reports, there was talk of up to 95%. Now, the general risk of dying from Covid-19 (not differentiated by age and health status) currently appears to be 0.1516%.
“What does a stated vaccination efficacy of, for example, 95% refer to? What do absolute and relative risk reduction mean in this context?”
The letter also requested the Covid-related hospitalisation risk over a one-year period for an unvaccinated 25-year-old compared with a double-vaccinated 25-year-old, and the same for a 65-year-old.
It concluded with a question about Austria’s excess mortality statistics.
In December, the Der Standard newspaper reported that there were one-third fewer COVID-19 deaths in 2021 compared with the previous year, but that weekly excess mortality was higher.
“Is this true?” the letter asked. “If so, what was the total excess mortality in 2021 that could not be explained by COVID-19 deaths, and what is the explanation for this excess mortality?”
Austria has seen record high case numbers in recent days, fuelled by the Omicron variant.
Good to see a high court taking a detailed interest in these technical questions, unlike our own largely supine and deferential judiciary. Also good to see an interest in the unexplained wave of non-Covid excess deaths this winter. The Government’s response will be interesting, as will the court’s ruling.