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Tighter Rules in Austria as Covid-19 Continues to Surge

Shops in Austria now need to shut at 7pm. Last week it introduced tighter rules and further measures are expected to be announced on Saturday. Elsewhere in the Alps Covid-19 is spreading as the ski season approaches, but news of a successful vaccine trial has brought much optimism.

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Update, Friday 13th November

Austria is set to close schools and tighten restrictions to slow the spread of the virus, according to media reports.

The details are on the news website OE24.

It said the government would hold a news conference to announce the measures on Saturday.

It’s thought shopping centres where large crowds can gather will close, but other retail shops will remain open.

Austria has already introduced a partial lockdown, but cases are still rising.

The partial lockdown, set to last until the end of the month, has closed restaurants, cafes and bars, to all but takeaway services.

Theatres and museums are closed.

This week Austria announced that shops would have to close by 7pm.

Austria has a nightly curfew from 8pm to 6am and the new measures are aimed to make it more workable.

“This restriction of the opening times is intended to ensure that purchases are made in good time before the start of the curfew, so that the goal of the greatest possible reduction in mobility in the evening and night hours can be taken into account as best as possible,” said the Austrian Ministry of Social Affairs.

“The aim of this regulation is therefore to support compliance with the curfew restrictions and thus to achieve a further reduction in all unnecessary social contacts.”

The new rule does not apply to petrol stations, ticket offices at train stations or to airports.

The tightening of the opening hours comes one week after Austria introduced new measures.

Austria introduces new lockdown measures

Covid-19 spreading ‘out of control’ in Austria

On Tuesday 6,120 new cases of coronavirus were recorded in Austria with a further 45 deaths.

It has one of the highest current infection rates in Europe with 486 people per 100,000 of population contracting the disease over a 7-day period.

The most new cases were recorded in Upper Austria with 1,489.

Here are the figures for elsewhere.

  • Lower Austria – 891
  • Vienna – 711
  • Styria – 706
  • Tirol – 561
  • Salzburg – 458
  • Vorarlberg – 426
  • Burgenland – 188
  • Carinthia – 163

However, despite the grim statistics news of a successful vaccine trial means there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

Next winter will be extremely tough for many, but the news from the scientists is seismic.

The world’s first effective coronavirus vaccine had shown positive results in preliminary tests on 43,500 people.

Pfizer’s vaccine showed it could prevent more than 90% of people from getting Covid.

Data on the vaccine from Oxford University and AstraZeneca is weeks away.

They have made over 3m doses already, expecting positive Phase 3 results this month.

Regulators are standing by for emergency authorisation in record time.

“The Pfizer or Oxford vaccines could be approved within days of a licence application being submitted,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock said to the House of Commons.

The Austrian Institute for Economic Research has predicted that if the winter tourism season falters Austria’s entire GDP could shrink by as much as 1.5%.

Skiing is an industry worth billions and the source of livelihoods for hundreds of thousands.

In Tirol every fourth job is related to tourism and every second bed is a hotel bed.

Here at PlanetSKI we are normally in the glacier resorts in the Tirol at this time of year.

We had planned to be in Ischgl in December.

It was a significant spreader of coronavirus back in February and March and we were looking forward to skiing its slopes and reporting on its Covid-19 precautions.

Our visit has been postponed as Covid-19 surges.

“We weren’t surprised by this new lockdown because it was obvious that something would happen,”  said our good friend Andreas Steibl, the managing director of the local tourism board, to Austrian media.

“We are convinced that the number of cases will drop again, and that by mid-December, we can safely start the season,” he added.

Ischgl sets out to rebuild image and reputation after Covid-19

Ischgl responds to criticism over its handling of coronavirus

Ischgl, Austria

Ischgl, Austria

So, what are the current rules in some other alpine nations?

Here is the information from the BBC:

France: Second national lockdown

France entered a new national lockdown on Friday, 30 October.

People are allowed to leave their homes only to go to work (if they cannot work from home), to buy essential goods, seek medical help or to exercise for one hour a day.

Anyone going outside has to carry a written statement justifying their journey, as happened in the first lockdown in March.

All non-essential shops, restaurants and bars are shut, but schools and creches remain open.

Social gatherings are banned.

The rules will be in place until at least 1 December.

In addition, in Paris and surrounding areas, a curfew from 21:00 may be reintroduced.

It was initially brought in from 17 October, but dropped when the national lockdown was announced.

Italy: Sweeping new measures

A new three-tier framework and further nationwide restrictions have come into force in Italy.

Across the country, museums, which had previously been allowed to stay open, had to close.

There is a curfew from 22:00 to 05:00. During these hours people can only leave their homes for work, medical reasons or emergencies.

Gyms, swimming pools, theatres and cinemas closed in late October and restaurants and bars can only stay open until 18:00.

Gatherings for weddings, baptisms and funerals were banned and people were strongly advised not to leave their immediate areas except for work, study or health reasons.

Schools remain open, but older students have had to switch to remote learning. Public transport has been limited to 50% of its capacity – down from 80%.

In addition to these nationwide measures, the country is divided into red, orange and green zones.

The red zones – the areas with the highest level of infections – had to close all bars, restaurants and most shops, including hairdressers and beauticians.

Factories and essential services have remained open, including pharmacies and supermarkets, as was the case during lockdown in March.

In orange zones, restaurants and bars have closed, but hairdressers and beauty salons remain open.

In the green zones, there are no further measures beyond the nationwide curbs.

Among the rules throughout the country is that masks have to be worn everywhere indoors and outdoors, except in private homes.

Germany: Partial lockdown in November

Since 2 November, new restrictions across the country have included the closure of cinemas, theatres, gyms, pools and saunas, as well as restaurants and bars, except for takeaway.

Social contacts are limited to two households with a maximum of 10 people. Large events are cancelled and no crowds are allowed at sports fixtures.

Overnight stays in hotels for leisure purposes are banned and all non-essential travel strongly discouraged.

However, schools and creches are open and visits to nursing homes are allowed.

Shops and hairdressers are able to stay open, with strict hygiene rules and limits on the number of customers. Church services and protests are also permitted.

The measures will stay in place until 30 November.

Over in the Pyrenees it is no better:

Spain: New state of emergency

On Sunday, 25 October, Spain began its nationwide curfew, after the government declared a new state of emergency.

People in all regions, with the exception of the Canary Islands, will have to stay at home between 23:00 and 06:00.

The only permitted journeys are going to work, buying medicine or caring for elderly people or children.

Public and private gatherings are limited to six people.

The state of emergency was initially put in force for 15 days but was later extended by parliament until early May 2021.

Spain’s regional leaders can modify the start and end times of the curfew in their territory and can also close regional borders to travel.

The nationwide measures follow a number of regional measures that were introduced earlier in October.

Face masks have to be worn by anyone over the age of six on all forms of public transport and in indoor public spaces across the country.

Most regions in Spain have made masks obligatory outdoors as well.

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