January 24, 2021

Coronavirus: Austria reopens some shops as lockdown eased

Austria is to reopen thousands of shops on Tuesday as it seeks to ease restrictions brought in to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Garden centres, DIY stores and small shops will open as part of a step-by-step plan to restart the economy.

However strict social distancing rules remain in place, with people urged to stay at home as much as possible.

It comes as some other European countries ease restrictions imposed over the pandemic.

Spain has allowed some citizens to return to work and Denmark is reopening schools for younger children.

Italy – Europe’s hardest-hit country with more than 20,000 deaths – will allow a narrow range of firms to resume operations on Tuesday.

However, French President Emmanuel Macron has extended the lockdown there for another four weeks until 11 May.

In a televised address, he said the current restrictions had slowed the virus but not beaten it.

The World Health Organization has welcomed the slowing down of infections in some European countries but warned against lifting restrictions too early.

Director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has cautioned that easing measures too quickly “could lead to a deadly resurgence”.
Austria was one of the first European countries to follow neighbouring Italy in imposing strict lockdown measures about a month ago and the government says it has managed to flatten the curve of new infections. It has so far reported about 14,000 cases and 368 deaths.

Last week, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz unveiled plans to gradually lift restrictions.

In an open letter to the country on Saturday, he said he wanted to “come out of this crisis as quickly as possible and fight for every job in Austria”.

From Monday, shops under 400 sq m (4,300 sq ft) in size will be allowed to reopen along with hardware stores and garden centres.

Larger shops, shopping centres and hairdressers are due to be reopened from 1 May while restaurants and hotels could reopen from mid-May if health conditions allow, Mr Kurz has said.

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