What kind of post-Christmas lockdown will Austria announce?

What kind of post-Christmas lockdown will Austria announce?
A deserted street in the Austrian city of Graz. Photo: DPA
The Austrian government has scheduled a "major crisis meeting" with state representatives on Friday afternoon to discuss a post-Christmas lockdown. Here's what could be in store for the country after Christmas.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has called a the meeting on Friday afternoon with Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler, Minister of Health Rudolf Anschober and Minister of the Interior Karl Nehammer, along with the nine state governors. 

On the table is a new set of lockdown measures which are expected to be imposed from December 26th onwards. 

“I am not ready to accept that or to get used to the fact that we have three-digit death rates. That is simply not possible,” said Anschober.

Austrian media reports that the lockdown is set to resemble that which was imposed in Austria in November, with people required to stay home unless for certain reasons.

Der Standard reports that the lockdown should end on January 18th, although emerging from lockdown is likely to be contingent on receiving a negative coronavirus test result. 

Those who do not get tested will be required to remain in quarantine for another week, Der Standard reports

Skiing – which was set to reopen on December 24th – also looks set to be delayed until mid-January. 

The meeting is set to take place at 3pm via video conference and announced afterwards at a press conference, although the following measures are expected to be implemented. 

We will clarify the measures once announced.

24-hour curfew

Like in the November lockdown, people will not be allowed to leave their house without a valid reason. 

While currently (as at December 18th) these rules apply between 8pm and 6am, they will be extended to apply around the clock, Kurier reports

Under the rules, people will only be allowed to leave the house for the “necessary basic needs of life”. 

While these “needs” are not expressly defined, the Austrian government has clarified what people are allowed to do on several occasions to include visiting close family and friends, go to the doctor, exercise, shopping and going to work. 

More information is available at the following link. 

UPDATED: When am I allowed to leave my home under Austria's coronavirus measures? 

Shops, services and businesses

Like in November, non-essential shops and other services like hairdressers and beauty salons will again be required to close. 

Supermarkets, pharmacies and post offices will be allowed to remain open. 

Mass testing to leave lockdown

One new aspect of the post-Christmas lockdown is what appears to be a compulsory testing requirement in order to re-enter society. 

Der Standard reports that Austria will again embark on a mass-testing scheme, this time on the 16th and 17th of January. 

Those who receive a negative test will again be allowed to leave the house and “visit retail shops and hospitality (i.e. cafes and restaurants)” from the 18th of January. 

Those who are not tested will be required to quarantine for another week, Der Standard reports. 

Skiing remains a point of contention

One controversial aspect which has perplexed media sources in Austria is whether or not skiing will again be allowed. 

Despite the Austrian government announcing early in December that skiing will again be possible from December 24th, it may remain banned until the end of the lockdown. 

Der Standard reports however that this may remain a decision for states and local municipalities based on the amount of space in hospitals. 

With hospitals at their limit, “those injured on the slopes would be an additional, avoidable expense” Der Standard reports.

However, the western states – many of which are reliant on skiing income – are likely to push back against any federal ban. 

Schools

Schools are currently scheduled to re-open again on January 7th. 

Despite a floated plan that the holidays would be extended to the 11th of January, it appears that class will start on the 7th – but with students required to participate in ‘distance learning’, i.e. home schooling. 


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