Wien In order to contain the steeply growing coronavirus numbers, Austria is massively restricting public life. “From Tuesday, November 3rd, midnight until the end of November, there will be a second lockdown in Austria,” said Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) on Saturday in Vienna. Exit restrictions then apply nationwide between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. During this time, leaving the apartment is only permitted for specific reasons.
Cultural and leisure facilities must close, as well as the hotel and hospitality industry – only take-away and deliveries are allowed. With the exception of top-class sport, events no longer take place, but without an audience. Recreational sports are only allowed outdoors without physical contact.
Trade and service providers such as hairdressers remain open. Children up to the tenth grade should “for the time being” continue to kindergarten and – with a mask requirement from the age of 6 – go to school, the upper school and students learn from home.
“It is necessary to take this step in order to avoid overloading the intensive care medicine,” said Kurz. “Our goal is to gradually reopen in December and return to a halfway normal life.”
Parliament’s main committee still has to approve the measures on Sunday afternoon. The ordinance applies until November 30th, the exit restrictions must be approved by parliament every ten days.
Worry about overloading the disease system
The number of infections has been rising steeply for weeks to new highs almost every day. The government fears that the hospitals will soon become overloaded. On Saturday, Austria counted 5349 new cases within 24 hours to its almost 9 million inhabitants, after the record value of 5627 new infections in one day was reported on Friday. In the past seven days there were an average of 301.1 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants, in the federal states of Vorarlberg and Tyrol even significantly more than 400 each.
“Most of the infections take place with people who know each other, who like each other,” emphasized Kurz. He therefore called the nocturnal exit restriction “a de facto ban on visitors”. It is permitted to leave the private living space between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. to relax outdoors, for basic needs, for care or family support, for work or in the event of danger. Public transport may only be used for these purposes during this time. The takeaway operation of the catering is prohibited from 8 p.m.
The regulation also contains contact restrictions, according to which only people from two households are allowed to meet at home. However, the regulation could be legally challenged as private space in Austria is strictly protected by the constitution. “The police will not begin to look into private homes,” emphasized Interior Minister Karl Nehammer (ÖVP). This refers, for example, to garage parties that have been linked to infections in outbreaks in Austria.
Compensation should be paid out quickly, promised Finance Minister Gernot Blümel (ÖVP). Affected companies should receive up to 80 percent of their sales from the comparison period – an average month of the previous year -, a maximum of 800,000 euros. Blümel estimated the total cost to be around 1 billion euros.
According to the Austrian government, the first visible impact of the measures on the infection process is only expected in seven to 14 days. The real breakthrough won’t take place until a vaccine is available, Kurz said. “I remain optimistic and believe that we can return to normality by next summer at the latest.”
More: In November, the Austrian Federal Railroad only operates the route from Vienna to Berlin. However, operations should continue during Christmas business.