The governors demonstrated unity on Sunday after the lockdown extension until February 7th announced by the turquoise-green federal government and evoked a national alliance. For the time being, no critical voices were to be found among the country leaders. These came from liberal national organizations.
Vienna’s head of state, Mayor Michael Ludwig (SPÖ), and his Styrian counterpart, Governor Hermann Schützenhöfer (ÖVP), appeared at the press conference together with Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) and Rudolf Anschober (Greens). Both pointed to the new situation caused by the British variant and the necessity of the measures taken.
Ludwig emphasized the necessary “national solidarity”. In this difficult situation, it is now a question of standing together across party lines, said Ludwig, who continues to hope that the federal states will be involved. At the same time, the Mayor of Vienna urged further economic aid for small and medium-sized enterprises, municipalities and cities as well as employees. Now would be a good opportunity to take up the demands of the social partners and raise unemployment benefits a little, he said.
For Schützenhöfer it is important to listen to the expertise of the scientists, who say “that now is the wrong time to open up”. They are currently “in a race ‘vaccination against virus'”. You have to do the right thing now, says Schützenhöfer: “Doing the right thing is not always popular.”
Carinthia’s governor Peter Kaiser (SPÖ) also considers the lockdown extension necessary. In an interview in the ORF program “Hohes Haus”, he said that he was originally in favor of cautious easing at the regional level. However, the consultations with the experts had convinced him that the measures now being taken were inevitable. At the same time, however, there must be economic aid. He also addressed this in the talks.
Salzburg Governor Wilfried Haslauer (ÖVP) described the extension of the lockdown as “painful but unfortunately necessary”. The measures were not a political decision, “but one following the virological recommendations, because this mutation is a great danger,” emphasized Haslauer. Openings would have been desirable, but the weighing up is an extremely difficult balancing act between the serious health, economic and social consequences. The winter sports region of Salzburg is particularly affected by the fact that the hotel industry will be closed until the end of February. As he emphasized, Haslauer has therefore advocated that further aid measures are inevitable for the tourism industry and also those small and medium-sized businesses that are dependent on tourism. That fell on fertile ground with the federal government.
“We still have to persevere and help together – even if it annoys us all enormously and puts a heavy strain on us economically and personally,” said Upper Austrian Governor Thomas Stelzer (ÖVP). According to Stelzer, it is important that nobody looks through the fingers or is forgotten when using the bridging aids. “Nobody is happy with these measures, nobody makes such decisions lightly. But if we don’t act now, there is again a risk of enormous pressure on our health care and even more deaths,” emphasized the Upper Austrian governor.
For the time being, criticism came from the states only from the liberal side: The Lower Austrian state party chairman Udo Landbauer expressed harsh criticism and called for a “lockdown for the federal government”. “Instead of finally letting the entrepreneurs, employees and families breathe again, the population is being harassed, locked up and driven into ruin from above.” The same came from the Vienna FPÖ boss Dominik Nepp, who described Ludwig’s behavior as “disappointing”. Lower Austria’s governor Johanna Mikl-Leitner (ÖVP) and SPÖ regional party leader LHStv. Franz Schnabl initially gave no statement.