Written by by Kirsten Larkins, CNN
More than 40,000 people took part in anti-coronavirus march
More than 40,000 people have marched in Vienna against changes to local regulations that require people to wear a wristband to indicate whether they have been exposed to the coronavirus.
Originally known as SARS-CoV, the virus can cause coughing, respiratory trouble and pneumonia, which has led to the containment of the disease in Austria over the last ten years.
The World Health Organization predicts that the virus will be eradicated in the next five years, but Austria’s capital city has chosen to only allow people who have been identified with being sick with the virus, rather than contacting all visitors in order to detect any exposure.
During the march in Vienna, Ido Atanski-Vichstein, a scientist at the Institute for Microbial Disease Research, the Austrian Research Council and technical adviser for Public Health in Vienna, urged activists to stand together.
“Our relationship with these viruses is an interdisciplinary one,” he said. “Just because we’re not wearing those wristbands doesn’t mean we’re not exposed to the virus.”
“I ask that we walk this path in solidarity,” he added.
There have been eight cases of coronavirus identified in Austria this year, but the risk of getting the virus is thought to be much lower than in other parts of the world, where most of the 229 reported cases globally have been imported.
Coronavirus “remains under control in Austria,” the World Health Organization’s statement reads.
Over the last 20 years, there have been five known cases of coronavirus in the European population, of which two were in Austria. The last case was diagnosed in 2015 in a woman who died two months later from a brain hemorrhage caused by the virus.
Marchers were given the names of the three dead people, which included two children. The third person, whose name hasn’t been released, is still under observation.
“We had to decide that we don’t want to live with any notion of stigmatization or distrust of a possible risk for those who in the past had suspected coronavirus but survived. The risk today is about how do we identify, engage with and protect these communities around the world who are also affected by this possible health risk,” said Commissioner for Public Health in Vienna, Robert Miedema.
This move has sparked debate in the media and sparked hundreds of submissions to the government regarding the possible effect it will have on tourism.
Leading the march, Ingeborg Fuchtel said that in between promoting the city, “we also have a position to present to the World Health Organization to make sure that every second person we visit on our travels is not exposed to this virus.”
Currently, tourism is a major economic asset for Austria, with more than 1.5 million travelers visiting the country every year.