The Austrian government on Monday, February 1st, made its much anticipated announcement on the country's lockdown.
While the lockdown will be extended beyond its current end date of February 8th, some measures look set to be relaxed.
All of the measures will be relaxed in a uniform fashion – i.e. there will be no regional or state variations.
In addition to the following measures, Austria also pledged to toughen border controls to keep out the Brazilian variant of the coronavirus – however specifics of the tougher measures were not provided.
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.
The following measures will apply from February 8th
What will be relaxed?
Stay at home order to apply only at nighttime
Austria's 24-hour stay at home order will only apply between 8pm and 6am from February 8th.
More information is available at the following link.
Two households are allowed to meet during the day from February 8th.
The hard lockdown on ‘non-essential’ retailers is expected to be relaxed, with smaller shops selling clothes and gifts again allowed to reopen.
FFP2 masks will be required in all shops, however.
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,” said Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.
Teachers and students will also be tested weekly.
Hairdressers and beauty services again allowed – but only with a negative test
In addition, ‘body hugging service providers’ – i.e. hairdressers and cosmetic services – will again be allowed to open.
These services will be subject to strict hygiene measures, such as FFP2 masks, maximum numbers of people per square metre and the recording of contact details.
People will also be required to show a negative coronavirus test which is less than 48 hours old.
“Here we will rely on the concept of entrance tests,” the chancellor said.
Museums, zoos and libraries can again open
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.
What won’t be relaxed?
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. They will be discussed in more depth on February 15th, said Austria's Health Minister Rudolf Anschober.
Why is the lockdown not being relaxed completely?
One of the major reasons that a full relaxation has been avoided is due to the prevalence of the coronavirus mutation in Austria.
Kurz called upon each resident of Austria to take responsibility to ensure infection numbers continue to fall in the coming weeks.
“Once again, the responsibility of each individual in the country will play an important role”.
Despite decreasing infection rates, the recent experience of the United Kingdom and Ireland – where infection rates exploded almost immediately after lockdowns were relaxed – showed the need to keep measures in place.
“Together with the experts, we will once again discuss how we can create openings in the first areas very carefully and in a controlled manner without taking too high a risk,” announced Anschober.