C.hristoph Hofinger is a man that most Austrians usually only see on election evenings when he forecasts the results in the service of ORF. However, the corona crisis gave Hofinger’s research institute SORA an at least as explosive order: In collaboration with the Red Cross, a representative study was to find out how high the number of people infected with Covid 19 really is. This should enable the government to “see the whole iceberg” of the pandemic for the first time “and not just the tip”, as Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of the ÖVP put it.
It is an approach that has been discussed in Germany for weeks. If you don’t have enough capacity to test the whole population – why not take a sample and extrapolate the result to the whole population. Similar tests are still being planned in Germany.
The results of the so-called “Undisclosed figure study” in front. Christoph Hofinger published together with Austria’s Minister of Science Heinz Faßmann on Friday. The result of the survey among 1544 people: According to the study, the number of infected people is more than three times higher than officially registered. In detail: The proportion of those infected between the ages of 0 and 94 is 0.33 percent. That is around 28,500 people in relation to the Austrian population. At the time of testing, only 8,500 people were officially registered as infected.
So Austria, unlike almost all other countries on earth, does it know how high its unreported figure is? Yes and no Because the range of fluctuation of the study is enormous: the percentage of infected people is somewhere between 0.12 and 0.76 percent, i.e. between 10,200 and 67,400 infected, with a 95 percent probability. The value of 0.33 percent, i.e. 28,500 infected, is the most likely value for the test date April 6.
The sample had already been criticized as too small prior to the study. The great uncertainty in the numbers suggests that it really is. However, the SORA managing directors defended their methodology as a “right compromise”. It would not only have taken longer to test more people, it would also have overloaded Austria’s test capacities. Science Minister Faßmann pointed out, among other things, that the sample of the well-regarded but regionally limited study in Heinsberg in North Rhine-Westphalia was 1,000 people.
The geography professor, originally from Germany, praised the study as an important contribution to improving the database on which the Austrian government makes its decisions in the fight against the corona virus. “We are the first country in continental Europe to be able to present a prevalence study,” said the politician nominated by the ÖVP.
So far, only Iceland has done a similar test. Upon request, the research ministers from Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Italy and Germany informed him that they were planning similar studies. Austria is a “role model and pioneer”. Germany also plans to start representative tests soon. However, the sample should then be significantly larger. There is talk of 100,000 people.
The Minister of Science summarized the conclusions that the Austrian government would draw from the study as follows: “The iceberg is higher than expected and we are not yet on the safe side.”
The number of those actually infected is significantly higher than that of those officially reported as such, but it is still well below one percent of the resident population. And from this low infection status in Austria, it can also be deduced that the country’s immunity status must also still be low – solely due to the relative novelty of the virus ’.
“The study shows us that our measures were the right ones, but we have to keep them for the next few weeks and months,” said Faßmann. “If the established form of social interaction takes place over Easter, it may well happen that due to the 28,000 infected people there will be an exponential growth again.” This could quickly lead to very large numbers again, since it is not yet significant Immunity rate would be slowed down. It must therefore be observed very closely how the gradual easing of the anti-corona measures, which start next week, will affect the infection numbers.
Interview with the European Minister
The liberal opposition party Neos described the study as “a snapshot that says little about the infection”. The tests were important, her health spokesman wrote Gerald LoackerIn order to obtain meaningful data, the same group would have to be tested again and again at short intervals. And “really valid statements would only bring a real test strategy with a combination of PCR and antibody tests.”
Both the science minister and the study authors have always emphasized that the study participants – in contrast to the Heinsberger study – were only tested for their infection status, not for their immunity status. Fassmann said that he would “like to take antibody tests with him for further test waves that were still planned,” but the Medical University of Vienna had not yet been able to give him clear recommendations that were both safe enough and suitable in terms of methodology. The next test round will obviously continue to focus on PCR tests, i.e. throat swabs, restrict.
At the end of his remarks, Christoph Hofinger, the “computer of the nation” again compared his work before Corona. “Unlike an election, we will never be evaluated exactly,” said the social researcher. “Nobody will ever be able to tell us how many people were actually infected at the beginning of April.” However, he promised to publish a study manual over the next few weeks that should enable a “critical and constructive” discussion. The Austrian study is part of a worldwide “struggle for reliable figures” to limit the bandwidth, said Hofinger. “We are happy that we can supply a mosaic stone for this worldwide mosaic.”