Vienna (dpa) – Austria extends corona lockdown to February 7. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz justified this in Vienna on Sunday by saying that more infectious mutations of the virus had now also arrived in Austria. The situation has again deteriorated significantly.
The goal is to reopen shops and museums under strict security measures after the extension of two weeks. Service companies such as hairdressers are then allowed to return to work.
However, the number of new infections reported daily should decrease significantly, Kurz added. Exit restrictions remained in place for so long, as did distance learning schools. After the lockdown is over, the intention is to reopen the school in shifts. Ski slopes and ice rinks are still open.
The expansion was initially planned for January 25. However, due to the new virus mutation discovered in the UK, experts had warned against opening too early. The infectious virus variant B.1.1.7 is already relatively widespread in Austria based on the initial findings. The virus will demand a lot from the Austrians for the next ten weeks, said Health Minister Rudolf Anschober. “It will be the most difficult phase of the pandemic.”
Almost three weeks after the start of the last hard lockdown, the number of new infections on Sunday was 1267. The seven-day incidence – the number of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants – had recently leveled off between 130 and 150. In Germany it was 136 on Sunday. Kurz stated as a target that by the end of the lockdown there should be only 600 to 700 new infections per day – an incidence of about 50.
Since the start of the pandemic, in Austria, with its nearly nine million inhabitants, more than 7,000 people have died from or with Covid-19. For a moment, however, she was convinced that vaccinations would return to normal in the summer.
The safety distance that people must maintain in Austria has been increased from one to two meters. In the future – just like in Bavaria – FFP2 masks will have to be worn in shops and public transport. The masks must be made available free of charge to groups with a low income. The government also called on companies to allow employees to work from home as much as possible. However, there is no obligation to work from home – as demanded by experts.
In mid-February, the plan was to reassess the situation for restaurants, hotels and organizers, Kurz said. An opening is possible in March at the earliest. The Treasury Department announced that it would provide financial support to entrepreneurs affected by the lockdown until the end of the pandemic.
The opposition reacted differently. The chairman of the Social Democratic SPÖ, Pamela Rendi-Wagner, welcomed the extension. “The number of infections is too high and the mutations are a strong accelerator of the spread of the virus.” The liberal Neos also supports the regulations. However, the vaccination strategy was criticized. Norbert Hofer, head of the right wing FPÖ, on the other hand, was “disappointed” and “angry”. The population no longer understands this and increasingly shows “civil disobedience”.
The announcement of the new measures came a day after a major rally against the Corona rules in Vienna, involving some 10,000 people. According to the police, distance rules and mask requirements were largely ignored. In total there were 23 arrests. In addition, more than 300 reports were made.