Austria tightens border controls while easing lockdown

Austria’s government on Monday made its much anticipated announcement on the country's lockdown, news wires reported. While the lockdown will be extended beyond its current end date of 8 February, some measures look set to be relaxed. At the same time, speaking at a news conference, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz pledged to toughen border controls to keep out the Brazilian variant of the coronavirus.

Infection numbers have gradually and steadily fallen in recent weeks in Austria, with the current seven-day incidence at 105.4 infections per 100,000 residents. This is far lower than in December and much of January, however it is still well below the target of 50 per 100,000.

What will be relaxed from 8 February?

Austria's 24-hour stay at home order will only apply between 8pm and 6am. Two households are allowed to meet during the day. The hard lockdown on ‘non-essential’ retailers is expected to be relaxed, with smaller shops selling clothes and gifts again allowed to reopen. Hairdressers and beauty services again allowed - but only with a negative test. FFP2 masks will be required in all shops.

Face-to-face lessons will again take place at Austrian schools, however this will be done with divided classes. "We have agreed that the schools should return to classroom teaching after the semester break," Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said. Teachers and students will also be tested weekly.

Museums, libraries and art galleries are allowed to open, although FFP2 masks will be required and limits will be placed on the number of people who can enter.

At this stage, despite their recent protests it appears that hotels, restaurants, bars and cafes will have to wait a little longer before being allowed to reopen.

Border controls - such as Austria’s quarantine requirement - also look set to remain in place for the foreseeable future.

Kurz called upon each resident of Austria to take responsibility to ensure infection numbers continue to fall in the coming weeks.

More on this subject: Coronavirus

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