Schools, shops to close as Austria tightens restrictions

Publish: 7:57 PM, November 16, 2020 | Update: 7:57:PM, November 16, 2020

VIENNA,  – Austria’s government Saturday announced a return to tougher anti-coronavirus restrictions including shutting schools and non-essential shops to contain spiralling second wave infections.

“From Tuesday and until December 6 a new lockdown like the one from spring will brought in,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told a news conference.

Kurz’s administration imposed a partial lockdown two weeks ago but that has not stopped cases rising and hitting a daily record Friday.

The tightened measures will see social contact reduced to a minimum and people told to stay indoors save for clearly defined reasons such as shopping, work where working from home is not feasible, medical visits and sport.

“My pressing demand for the coming weeks is as follows: Don’t meet anyone. Every social contact is one too many,” said Kurz, stressing the need for “radical” action.

“There are still many who say that infections don’t happen at school, in shops or services. But the truth is the authorities can no longer trace 77 percent of new infections, which means they no longer know where contamination is happening.”

Only shops selling essential items will be permitted to remain open, such as food stores, chemists, banks and post offices. Primary and middle schools will switch to distance learning, senior schools and universities already having done so.

Vienna imposed a partial lockdown including a nighttime curfew from 8 pm at the start of November and ordered restaurants, museums, concert venues and sports facilities shuttered, but virus cases have continued to rise unabated.

The country has seen 831 confirmed cases per million inhabitants over the past seven days, according to the “Our World in Data” website, as Austrian jumped ahead of neighbouring Czech Republic and Switzerland to top the global charts.

The nation of 8.8 million escaped relatively lightly during the first wave but Friday saw 10,000 infections in 24 hours and a further 7,000 on Saturday. Daily cases had been running in contrast at only around 1,000 in early October. The recent rise has put pressure on hospitals with Covid-19 patients currently occupying 567 of 2,000 intensive care beds. The country’s pandemic death toll currently stands at around 1,700.