Life in Vienna

Coronavirus in Vienna – What’s Going on + How to Self-Quarantine Like a Boss


As of Sunday, the 15th of March, new restrictions aimed at halting the progression of nCOV-2019 were introduced in Austria! Please, read on to find out what it means to the Viennese community.

The coronavirus situation is serious. Even if you are not in the group of immediate risk, you are still responsible for minimising your exposure to potential virus carriers and passing it onto people, who will contract the virus and, as a result, get sick.

Source: WHO

You, yes you, are also responsible for not running around like a headless chicken spreading fear and uncertainty. When has that ever worked for anyone? What historical event ever benefited from mass hysteria?

Breathe in. Breathe out.

You’ve got it!

The Basics: how to behave when coronavirus is spreading through Europe

  • Wash your hands with soap frequently! Make sure you don’t half-ass this either – here’s a helpful video guide.
  • Practice respiratory hygiene. Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze, and dispose of the used tissue immediately.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your mouth, eyes and nose. The new coronavirus is a respiratory virus which spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose. Our skin is a strong protective barrier but areas such as mouth and nose are direct entryways for the virus.
  • If you are in Vienna (or anywhere in the world, really), please, do not overbuy on things you do not need. Today I saw older people shuffling aimlessly in an empty toilet paper alley of a supermarket because everything was bought out. Older people, especially ones living on their own, do not have the luxury of being able to breeze in and out of their apartments. Often, their shopping trips are limited to one per week. There is enough of everything in the store magazines – employees simply cannot catch up with restocking the shelves, which are empty and freak people out.
  • This is important! As of now, the Austrian government does not allow public group gatherings. You are also advised to stay at home unless for three very specific reasons: going to work (which cannot be avoided and done remotely due to the nature of your profession), going to the pharmacy or grocery shopping, or travelling to help someone. Limit social contact and stay at home.
  • You are allowed to go out, however, there are rules to obey too. Walks are permitted provided that they are done alone or in a family (people living in a household). Still, going out is discouraged if avoidable. Walking your dog is also allowed. Except in emergencies, a minimum distance of one meter must also be observed.
Source: Wien.ORF
  • Another limitation for joggers and walkers: you cannot travel by public transport to get to your destination (park, the Danube, etc). Public transport is now only intended for use in the other exceptional cases such as the journey to work, and only if you keep a distance. All of this applies from now until March 22 inclusive (stated as of the 16th of March).
  • Continue to monitor the situation, follow the guidelines released by the government, but also make sure that you take care of yourself and your mental health.

Get educated about the novel coronavirus situation in Vienna

There is no shame in not knowing. However, there is absolutely no excuse for knowingly ignoring your ability to go online and find reputable information sources about COVID-19, an infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

No matter.

For the most reliable information about the coronavirus situation in Vienna, go to:

Global coronavirus updates

For reliable information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

Updates in English

Metropole, a magazine for English-speaking folks in Vienna, is publishing updates from the press conferences. Click!

You can also visit the City of Vienna’s website – this section is entirely in English.

Do not give in to panic

If you are one of the people, whose immediate reaction was to go on a toilet paper shopping frenzy but did not scale down their social life, I ask, who hurt you? What happened in your life to scar you so?

But seriously, do not trust the sensationalised headlines you see everywhere. “Since traditional media are supported by ad revenue, they are driven to sensationalize. While they supposedly rely on confirmed information from sources, we’ve all heard, “While we’ve not yet been able to confirm this, there are reports that …” We must also be aware that media outlets, to beat their competitors, occasionally engage in pure speculation“, write Shane Owens, Ph.D., ABPP and David Cennimo MD, FACP, FAAP, FIDSA, for the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

ADAA prepared a very comprehensive list of resources to address coronavirus and health anxiety- view it here.

Help for self-employed

Many of us will be directly hit financially, as clients are cancelling or delaying projects. Right now, the government is working on a plan to address these concerns. There are already some processes in place, including:

  • SVS: die Sozialversicherung der Selbständigen published guidelines on payment reassessment following the pandemic announcement – Information received through the fantastic Facebook group, Self-employed in Vienna “Anyone who is directly or indirectly affected by the coronavirus through illness and quarantine, or who is expecting massive business losses and thus has payment difficulties, will receive the best possible support from SVS. Those affected should contact us directly and easily. We can work out individual solutions and plans for everyone. ”
  • Notify Finanzamt of your new situation.
  • Visit WKO’s site to read about measures implemented to help SMBs. WKO’s FAQ section (in German) is a very comprehensive read.
  • Make sure you document any expenses that arise from this situation – for example, talk to your tax advisor about calculating how much of your bills can be put into your business expenses. When you are a consultant and work from home most of the time, as I do, a percentage of some apartment costs can be written off as business expenses. This also concerns equipment or annual public transport tickets.
  • I know that this situation is really difficult for many of us, but, if you feel up to it, it’s a good time to start evaluating your plans. Are you paying for additional insurance in case you cannot work? How much will you have to work to make up the income shortage? Have you been honest about saving in the past? These are tough questions to ask yourself at times like this, however, you have to know the answer. I got screwed over so many times because I did not know or I had not planned in advance.

How to prepare for self-quarantine

Staying at home and avoiding social contact is one of the key recommendations by the European governments, as well as the European Union Commission.

Preventative self-quarantine is not forced isolation. It’s an important difference to know, especially if staying at home without your friends affects your mental state. Think about it as a necessary protection for not only yourself but also the most vulnerable people right now.

By staying indoors and taking care of yourself, you are helping prevent the spread of the COVID-19. You are doing your part.

But being home does not mean being isolated. We have the Internet. We have phones. We have Whatsapp. We have social media. You aren’t alone.

How to prepare for a longer stay at home?

  • Prepare a meal plan for the time you will be at home and a shopping list.
  • Plan your shopping trips – maybe throw in a longer route to go to the store, to also get some exercise and fresh air?
  • Stock up on non-perishables – dried food, rice, pasta, canned tomatoes, canned vegetables, frozen vegetables… I am not talking buying out all of the available stock – this is not an extraordinary practice for someone planning not to go out for a while. Get some ready meals too – when you are not used to cooking every day, I don’t think you will magically fall in love with the process.
  • Restock on household items too – especially if you plan to use the time at home to spring clean!
  • Take care of entertainment! Now that you have more time, you can figure out what you like and don’t like. Online courses are made for staying home.

Feeling helpless and want to address that? Here’s a list of ideas!

Donate money. WHO, UN Foundation and partners launched first-of-its-kind COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. Also, Facebook got on board.

“Facebook is matching up to $10 million in donations, and 100% of funds will directly support the work to prevent, detect and respond to the outbreak around the world. We’ll also match $10 million for the Center for Disease Control Foundation, which will launch a fundraiser in the next few weeks focused on combating the outbreak here in the US”, states Mark in the Facebook announcement.

Link to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fundraiser for WHO with $10 Million Match by Facebook

Link to the fundraiser

Clean your flat. Taking care of your environment and making it as comfortable as possible could ease the tension of spending more time in your flat than usual. Add to it the benefit of moving and exercise. Maybe it’s time to listen to the Minimalists (way better than Marie Kondo’s method), who will walk you through decluttering your life responsibly. Oh, and they also have a documentary on Netflix – Minimalism – a Documentary about the Important Stuff.

Print a notice for your apartment building, offering help to people, who cannot go shopping themselves. We did that earlier today, using the template from FragNebenan. Shades Tours, a fantastic social venture from Vienna, prepared a German-language version for download.

These are times of crisis for many businesses, that rely on the influx of tourists; that organise events; that serve people as restaurants or cafes. Come Monday, the 16th of March, many stores will be shut, with the exception of grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, drug stores and post offices.

You cannot help everyone, and I wouldn’t expect that of you or myself. However, when you can, shop locally. Go to that small supermarket around the corner. If you are going crazy staying at home, stop by your favourite cafe. Get a takeaway. When exhibiting caution, keeping a safe distance (this includes not shaking hands) and washing your hands frequently, you have nothing to be scared of.

If you are one of the people that cannot sit still for long (me), spend the time at home learning something new. I’m a big fan of online classes! Coursera has an amazing selection of free classes. There are also: Skillshare, CreativeLive, Udemy, and FutureLearn.

I was recommended the Science of Wellbeing course, Yale University, by Christine Jama, and I am really enjoying it! I also really liked and learnt a lot from the Psychological First Aid course offered by John Hopkins University. Both are available on Coursera, for free!

YouTube has a limitless amount of tutorials of any kind: Photoshop. Premiere Pro, photography, video editing, HubSpot, you name it! Or learn a new recipe! I will definitely be dusting off my cookbooks to learn how to cook different curries.

I hope that all of you, who read my post, are well and will stay that way. Keep an optimistic mind and let yourself take it slowly, one day at a time. Coronavirus is a gravity problem – we cannot do much about it, above being careful and taking care of ourselves.

Stay in touch

Follow me on Instagram – I am sharing a lot of interesting info in my stories! @akpawlik