Austria enters third lockdown

Austria entered its third coronavirus lockdown on Saturday following a relaxation of rules over Christmas, dpa reported. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said he expected a third wave of infections across Europe in early 2021, before testing and vaccinations would bring relief in the summer. "I believe that tests will become an absolute normality in the coming months, like brushing your teeth every day," Kurz told broadcaster ORF.

The delivery of the first Pfizer/BioNTech vaccination doses against Covid-19 came from Belgium via Germany, the authorities announced. The approximately 10,000 doses were brought from the border crossing in Suben in Upper Austria to a warehouse in Vienna under police escort.

A tightened lockdown with restrictions around the clock on going outside also came into force on Saturday. Shops with the exception of grocery stores, pharmacies and drug stores are to be closed until 17 January. However, the shops can hand over ordered goods to people collecting them. Hairdressers and many other service providers are closed, as are cultural and leisure facilities. Houses and apartments may be left only with good reason - though this includes sports or going for a walk. Permitted contacts with other households are massively restricted.

Numerous ski resorts were open in Austria with strict quarantine regulations or limited only to local residents. Despite these regulations, crowds were observed at Semmering mountain, some 100 kilometres south-west of Vienna, on Christmas Day, forcing operators to set up barrier fences to limit the number of people on the popular sledging slopes. Cable cars operators halved the number of guests allowed per gondola and tickets must be purchased online in advance.

The number of new infections had already decreased significantly in the last few days and as calculated per 100,000 inhabitants was below the values in neighbouring Germany.

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