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Austria imposed a second lockdown after the coronavirus pandemic spiraled out of control over the past two weeks, with the government surrendering as its plan to settle for lighter targeted measures failed to stem the outbreak.Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced the new restrictions on Saturday, roughly following Germany’s lead with a partial lockdown. Schools, hairdressers and non-essential stores will remain open this time around, and home exit restrictions will only apply at night. Restaurants, cafes and hotels will close except for take out and business travelers. Gyms, cinemas and theaters will also be closed. The rules go into effect on Tuesday and will stay in effect until the end of November.
“There will be a second lockdown in Austria starting on Tuesday,” Kurz told reporters at a press conference broadcast live by most TV channels. “As in spring, it will be necessary to abstain from many things. “
Kurz received praise at home and abroad for curbing the pandemic quickly and decisively in March. When infections have risen faster than elsewhere since September, however, his government appeared hesitant and botched plans like a “traffic light” system that would have allowed targeted local action instead of a nationwide lockdown. Quarrels with the provinces and within the governing coalition weighed on popular support.
New daily infections in Austria rose to more than 5,000 for the second day in a row on Saturday, bringing the seven-day incidence to a record 301 per 100,000 population, nearly twice as high as a week ago . Hospitalizations are well above March’s level and the number of intensive care patients has reached 265, nearing the spring peak. While the capital Vienna had become the hotbed of the pandemic in summer, the western Alpine regions are again the most affected.
Companies affected by the lockdown will be reimbursed 80% of the lost revenue they suffered from a year ago, as long as they keep their staff on the payroll, Kurz said. The wage subsidy program that helped keep people employed this spring will be further expanded. Kurz said the lockdown could be eased again in December, if the numbers drop enough by then.