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6 Apr, 2020 11:16

‘Gradual resurrection’: Austria to reopen small businesses in mid-April as govt eyes roll-back of Covid-19 restrictions

‘Gradual resurrection’: Austria to reopen small businesses in mid-April as govt eyes roll-back of Covid-19 restrictions

Small shops and markets in Austria could reopen under certain conditions next week, although tight lockdown restrictions will remain in place, the country’s chancellor has said, while other businesses could follow next month.

Sebastian Kurz has rolled out a plan to “gradually open our society” after weeks of tough restrictions aimed at containing the spread of Covid-19. While the international situation is still “dramatic,” Austria could “avert the worst” by acting faster than other nations, the chancellor told reporters from behind protective glass.

The country, which has over 12,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, can move towards “a gradual resurrection” of normal life having taken all necessary precautions, he said.

Small businesses, such as shops and markets selling food and household items, could open again on April 14, but they would have to make sure that no large crowds gather inside. As the government has prescribed, there could be only one visitor per 20 square meters; while customers and staff must wear face masks at all times.

If nothing extraordinary happens, shopping malls and barber shops will open their doors starting from May 1. However, restaurants, hotels and schools will remain under lockdown at least until mid-May, Kurz said, promising to decide their fate by the end of this month.

One shouldn’t expect the “resurrection” to be fast, the chancellor added, warning that there will be no public events until at least June. The roadmap itself comes with “a built-in emergency brake” that would come into effect immediately if the number of fresh coronavirus cases rises again. 

Austria has been one of the first countries in Europe to place severe restrictions on people’s mobility. It imposed border controls with neighboring countries, obliging all arrivals to present a certificate proving a negative Covid-19 test result. Shortly after the outbreak started, medical teams were also deployed at the Italian border to check travelers’ temperatures.

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