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Austria is first in Europe to ease lockdown

Published April 17, 2020

According to TIME, Austria is planning to become the first country in Europe to relax quarantine measures and ease its lockdown against the coronavirus pandemic. As deaths and infection rates fall, shops are due to reopen as early as next week in a bid to help kickstart its weakened economy. 

The Austrian government is pledging to gradually lift restrictions on public life while minimizing the risk of a surge of new infections, in a step-by-step plan: Small shops, large DIY stores and garden centers will be among the first allowed to re-open next week. Shoppers must follow social distancing guidelines, however, with only one shopper per 20 square meters of shop space allowed.  

At beginning of May, other higher-risk businesses like hair salons will be allowed to reopen. Public events will be delayed until July at the earliest—and schools don’t yet have a date for classes to resume. For now, the government is requiring citizens to wear face masks; Austrians have been told to wear them in supermarkets and drugstores larger than 400 square meters and on public transport. 

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz attributes the reopening timeline to his country’s aggressive early distancing measures. Despite this, Austria’s various industries will reopen at different speeds. Restaurants and hotels, for instance, won’t look to reopen until mid-May. Even then, they’ll operate at 50% capacity to ensure physical separation between customers.

To help prevent another spike in new cases, some European businesses will look to examples set by Asian countries as they began reopening—like having temperature devices at the front entry and turning away visitors with high temperatures.


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