Austria health minister quits over Covid crisis ‘overwork’

Austria’s health minister announced Tuesday he would resign as he was overworked and exhausted managing the coronavirus crisis.

Rudolf Anschober became health minister early last year when his Green party formed an unlikely coalition with Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s conservatives, just before coronavirus started spreading rapidly in Europe.

“I’ve decided to resign from my job,” the 60-year-old told reporters.

“I’m overworked and powered out,” he said, adding that 15 months on the job had felt like 15 years.

He warned the pandemic was still in full swing and should not be “underestimated”.

“We are not out of the woods yet,” he said, becoming emotional as he thanked friends and colleagues.

Anschober said he had suffered circulation problems.

He had been absent for work since last week and also took a week off early last month when he checked into hospital.

Anschober had seen his profile rise rapidly during the crisis, even eclipsing the popularity of his boss mid-last year as Austria managed to keep the pandemic relatively at bay during the first wave.

Anschober told AFP in an interview last year how helping steer the country through the pandemic had been “quite a challenge”, including curtailing freedoms normally defended by the Greens, such as those of movement and assembly.

The Alpine EU member of almost 9 million has so far recorded more than 581,000 cases with more than 9,700 deaths.

Its capital Vienna and two other adjacent provinces have been under lockdown since early April as intensive care units have been filling up rapidly.

The veteran politician already took three months off from politics in 2012 because of burnout.