Austria will go into third lockdown after Christmas, ending with tests

Francois Murphy
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Vienna

By Francois Murphy

VIENNA (Reuters) -Austria will go into its third coronavirus lockdown after Christmas and lift it earlier for people who get tested, the government said on Friday, just 11 days after its second lockdown ended.

Non-essential shops reopened last week after a nearly three-week-long lockdown that brought daily infections below 3,000 from a peak of more than 9,000. A nighttime curfew is in place.

Larger gatherings of up to 10 people from 10 different households will be allowed over Christmas, however, and that is sure to accelerate infections again.

"The prognosis for all of Europe is a very, very dramatic one and we are now already seeing exploding infection numbers in many other countries," Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told a news conference.

"That means since we are not an island and we have many exchanges with other countries that we can now expect that here, too, exponential growth is possible at any moment," he said adding that a lockdown was the best response.

The new lockdown will start on Dec. 26. Shops, restaurants, theatres, museums and schools will reopen the week of Jan. 18. Mass tests will be held on Jan. 15-17, enabling people who test negative to end their lockdown sooner. For those who do not get tested, lockdown will last until Jan. 24.

Austria will, however, let ski resorts open their lifts despite the lockdown, though Austria's provinces will also have their say, Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler said. The government will require that FFP2 face masks be worn inside lifts, he said.

Ski resorts are due to reopen from Dec. 24, though hotels and restaurants will remain closed. Austria is introducing a quarantine requirement over the holiday season for almost all of Europe that appears to be at least partly aimed at deterring visits by skiers from neighbouring countries.

(Reporting by Francois Murphy;Editing by Alison Williams, Giles Elgood and Jonathan Oatis)