Austria will offer coronavirus testing to its entire population of 8.8 million, with those who test negative receiving “more freedoms” as the country prepares for the third lockdown.
The European country will enter the coronavirus lockdown for the third time after Christmas, the government confirmed on Friday, just 11 days after the country’s second lockdown ended.
Austria’s lockdown will run from December 26 to January 24, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Friday, as the country struggles to reduce its infection rate.
But Kurz said those who participate in a planned series of mass testing programs between Jan. 15 and Jan. 17 will be granted more freedom, such as visiting cultural events and restaurants.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz speaks at a press conference on Friday where he announced that Austria would begin a third lockdown from December 26, but that people who participate in a mass testing program could benefit from more freedoms.
Hotels and cultural venues will need to check test results upon arrival, while police will conduct random checks in other areas, Kurz said.
The measures were “the only possible way to reopen tourism, cultural life, restaurants and cafes during the pandemic and at the same time prevent the numbers from exploding again,” Kurz said.
During the first three weeks of the lockdown, non-essential stores will close, as will services such as hairdressers where physical proximity is inevitable.
Travel outside the home will again be restricted for purposes such as purchasing food or exercising.
However, starting January 18, stores and restaurants will reopen for those who have tested negative.
The schools will resume face-to-face teaching on the same date.
Those not taking part in the mass tests will have to wear FFP 2 masks, otherwise a simple face mask would be sufficient, for example at work or when buying food.
The rules governing how and whether to allow outdoor sports – including skiing – will be left to local authorities to be determined.
Since Austria emerged from its last lockdown earlier this month, the daily rate of new infections has mostly remained between 2,000 and 3,000 per day, but Kurz said on Friday the goal was to bring back the seven days incidence of new cases less than 100 per 100,000. inhabitants.
Pictured: A graph showing the daily new coronavirus cases in Austria over seven days
Pictured: A graph showing new daily coronavirus deaths in Austria over seven days
The government has said the latest lockdown will be the first of three phases in the fight against the pandemic.
The second phase will include weekly testing for occupations, including teachers and those who serve customers in stores and restaurants, with home workers tested twice a week.
The third phase is the mass vaccination campaign, which is expected to start on December 27 in tandem with EU countries.
Nonetheless, Kurz warned that the prognosis for the first months of 2021 was “very, very grim”, with a return to normality expected only this summer.
Austrian ski lifts are allowed to reopen on December 24, but restaurants, hotels and bars will remain closed.
Austrian ski lifts are allowed to reopen on December 24, although restaurants, hotels and bars will remain closed, despite the third lockdown on December 26.
The European ski season was plunged into chaos in March when resorts became sites of the early spread of the coronavirus.
Many were forced to close in Austria, France, Italy, Germany and other European countries before the scale of the crisis became clear.
Europe passed the grim milestone of 500,000 coronavrius deaths on Thursday, becoming the first region in the world to do so.
Latin America and the Caribbean reported 477,404 deaths, the United States and Canada 321,287, Asia 208,149, the Middle East 85,895, and Africa 57,423.