Coronavirus in Early December | Entry Restrictions May Be Extended

COVID-19 is shaping our daily lives. Here’s all you need to know about current measures, including where to get help, information and tips – updated regularly.

December 2, 2020

  • This is how the opening steps starting on December 7 will play out in different areas.
    • No open alcoholic beverages may be sold, which means that punch stands and Christmas markets will not be possible in the traditional way.
    • Retailers are allowed to open up again from Monday, December 7, as are services – including personal services such as hairdressers or masseurs.
    • The restriction of one customer per ten square meters applies to all shops. Masks have to be worn indoors in shops and stores at all times.
    • Cultural institution will remain closed, that also applies to cinemas.
    • Museums and libraries may open again starting on Monday, December 7.
    • From December 24 onwards, individual outdoor sports such as skiing or ice skating will be permitted again. Indoor sports venues (gyms, fitness centers etc.) will remain closed.
    • From December 7 onwards, people from two households are allowed to meet again during the day.
    • The night-time curfew from 20:00 in the evening to 06:00 in the morning is again in force.
    • Celebrations for up to 10 people should be possible on December 24, 25, 26 for Christmas, and December 31 for New Year’s Eve, if numbers continue to trend downwards. On these days, the 10 people can also come from more than two households.
    • In compulsory schools (pupils aged 6-14/15), there will be a complete return to in-person instructions. In upper grades, distance learning will continue. Students before their school-leaving exams (Maturaklassen) can also return to schools.
    • For children over 10 years of age, masks will be compulsory in class starting Monday, December 7.
    • Starting around the Christmas holidays, travelers coming back from “risk countries” with an incidence higher than 100 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days – so all of Austria’s neighboring countries and those on the Western Balkans – have to enter quarantine for 10 days.
    • After 5 days, people can “test themselves free” with a negative PCR test result.

Government Press Conference

  • Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) said the second lockdown succeeded in lowering cases numbers far enough to prevent an overburdening of the healthcare system.
    • “The pandemic is not over,” Kurz stressed.
    • He also stood at his assessment that we will be “mostly back to normal” next summer, but not in the months before that.
    • “The lower case numbers are a success, but not an all-clear signal,” Kurz said.
    • On Monday, December 7, schools will reopen and in-person instructions will resume for all students up to the age of 14.
      • Higher schools and universities will stay in distance learning until the winter holidays.
    • Shops and stores as well as museums will also reopen on December 7. Masks will have to be worn everywhere inside.
    • The curfew rules of before the “hard lockdown” will apply again, i.e. a night-time curfew (but not during the day) and reduced social contacts, i.e. two households can meet, but not more.
    • Mass tests and other measures should keep the numbers in check so that the population can “hopefully celebrate Christmas in a round of up to 10 people,” Kurz said.
    • Skiing and sport activities outside will also be once again allowed.
    • Cultural institutions, restaurants and bars will reopen on January 7.
      • Until year-end, 50% of lost revenues will be reimbursed by the government.
      • Starting on January 1, there will be a grant for fixed costs again.
    • Kurz stressed that there will be strict border regulations to help keep numbers low.
    • The chancellor acknowledged that these are “harsh measures” and that whatever opening steps the government may take, there will always be a sense of injustice and unfairness – but that a phased reopening is the only way to keep case numbers low.
    • Kurz once again reiterated his phrase “As much freedom as possible, as many constraints as necessary.”
    • He expects case numbers to keep going down from expected around 3,000 cases on December 6 to a lower number just before Christmas – and to rise again slowly in the Christmas holidays.
    • The chancellor asked everyone to keep following the measures and take part in the mass test in order to keep the infection numbers low to prevent another lockdown or harsher measures.
  • Vice-Chancellor Werner Kogler (Greens) said that the peak of the second wave is behind us and that infection numbers are falling, but not as fast as we’d wish they were.
    • Kogler wants to expand on the four areas of education, art & culture, sport and economic support measures.
    • First, education:
      • While older students will stay in distance learning, graduating classes (Maturanten) can return to schools for in-person instructions to prepare them well for school-leaving exams.
    • Regarding the cultural sector:
      • Kogler emphasized how hard the closure is for many artists, cultural institutions and culturally interested people.
      • Libraries will reopen on December 7, as will museums and galleries.
      • A more difficult topic are events, which affects theaters, operas, stages, concert halls and orchestras.
      • In about two weeks, a more detailed plan for reopening cultural institutions will be presented by the government, based on infection numbers by then.
      • Until January 7, cultural institutions will stay closed.
    • Regarding sports:
      • Starting on December 24, all outside sports that can be done alone (so no teams sports) will be permitted again. That includes skiing, cross-country skiing and other sports.
      • Indoor sport facilities will stay closed.
    • On the economic support measures:
      • For December, 50% of the revenue of the previous year will be reimbursed by the government.
      • Starting on January 1, the fixed-cost grant will again be the main measure of support for smaller and medium-sized business.
  • Health Minister Rudolf Anschober (Greens) pointed out that Austria managed the first wave well, but that the second wave has hit the country hard.
    • The explosion of numbers started around October 22, said Anschober, quadrupling in one-and-a-half weeks.
    • The soft lockdown on November 3 and the hard lockdown on November 17 were reactions to this explosion in cases.
    • The measures have resulted in a stabilization of new infections and also a decline in recent days.
    • Today, 3,972 new infections were reported. Because around 6,000 recovered from the virus, the number of active cases fell by about 2,000.
    • Since yesterday, 141 people in Austria have died due to or with COVID-19, the highest number on record in this pandemic.
    • The number of intensive care patients has increased from around 30, on September 2, to 674 patients in ICUs today, on December 2.
    • Without the strict measures taken in recent weeks, Austrian hospitals would have been overburdened.
    • “There are only a few months that we have to still stay strong, before the vaccine will slowly start to ameliorate the situation,” Anschober said.
    • Mouth-nose protection, hygiene, meeting fewer people and no big gatherings will be essential measures in the coming months.
  • Interior Minister Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) announced a strict border management regime to control new case numbers.
    • Everyone returning from a risk country will have to quarantine for 10 days.
    • After 5 days, people can test themselves “free” and leave the quarantine with a negative PCR test result.
    • Nehammer said that in summer and autumn, many new cases and infection chains came as a result of travels.
    • “Austria is a diverse country” and many people want to see their families abroad during holidays, Nehammer said, which is why these measures are “necessary” to keep numbers down.
    • The night-time curfew from 20:00 in the evening to 06:00 will apply once more.
    • Everybody will still need to reduce social contacts.
    • Shops and stores will reopen, but Nehammer appealed to the population “not to go shopping on the first day” to avoid big gatherings of people.

Other News Today

  • Austrian ministries reported 3,972 new cases in the last 24 hours.
    • The number of known active cases fell by -3,000(-5.4 %) to a total of 52,867.
    • The federal states reported the following numbers of new infections:
      • Burgenland: 151
      • Carinthia: 358
      • Lower Austria: 636
      • Upper Austria: 677
      • Salzburg: 450
      • Styria: 593
      • Tyrol: 332
      • Vorarlberg: 222
      • Vienna: 553
  • The number of daily tests is at around 23,000.
  • The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 rose by a considerable +142 (+3.3%), to currently 4,482.
  • Of those, 691 are in intensive care, a slight decrease by -10 (-1.4%) to the day before.
  • Since yesterday, 141 people have died due to or with the virus, the highest on record. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 3,325 people in Austria have died due to COVID-19. 
  • This morning, President Alexander Van der Bellen met Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) and Vice-Chancellor Werner Kogler (Greens) to discuss the planned relaxation steps after the lockdown and the medium-term strategy for combating the pandemic.
    • Van der Bellen said: “The next few weeks must be about doing everything possible to get the health crisis under control and prevent a third wave.”
    • Test strategy, contact tracing and continued compliance with protective measures were crucial topics.
    • Van der Bellen said: “The second major task is to restart the economy and secure jobs. Only together will we bring Austria well through this period and after the Corona crisis back to the top.”

  • Italy will tighten the coronavirus restrictions for the period from Christmas to New Year’s Eve. This was announced  by Health Minister Roberto Speranza today.
    • Speranza also announced that Italy would start a national vaccination campaign as soon as possible. Making the vaccination manadtory is not planned at present.
    • Rome has ordered around 202 million vaccine doses from various companies for the country of 60 million inhabitants.
  • Ten days of quarantine are planned for returnees from countries with a seven-day incidence of over 100.
    • According to reports, the federal government is planning strict entry restrictions for the Christmas holidays.
    • All those entering Austria from countries with a seven-day incidence of more than 100 (per 100,000 inhabitants) may have to spend ten days in quarantine or five days in quarantine if they test negative for the virus.
    • All neighboring countries would be affected.
    • The measure is to come into force before Christmas and is to last at least until January 10, reports say. 
  • Because of the coronavirus pandemic, France wants to prevent its citizens from skiing abroad during the Christmas vacations.
    • Prime Minister Castex regretted the failure to find a “European” solution.
    • France had previously agreed with Germany and Italy to put a stop to ski tourism at the turn of the year.
  • Since today, people can register for a free rapid antigen test as part of Austria’s mass testing drive for the population.
    • The free mass testing campaign will begin shortly, with Vienna planning to start this Friday, December 4.
    • In Vienna, the campaign will run December 4-13, with testing sites at the Stadthalle, the exhibition hall (Messehalle) near the Prater, and the Marxhalle in the 3rd district.
    • Tests are for free and voluntary.
    • The federal and city governments hope that many people use this opportunity to get tested.
    • People can register on the website österreich-testet.at
    • Here’s when all the federal states plan to conduct their mass tests.
  • Rents can be paid at a later date if those affected are in financial difficulties due to the pandemic.
    • Minister of Justice, Alma Zadić (Greens), announced that the original year-end deadline will be extended until the end of March.
    • Tenants are still protected from eviction until 2022.
    • Eviction executions can still be postponed more easily until June 30 next year at the request of the tenants.
    • The extended rules are to apply to all residential rents, but not to business premises and leases. 
  • Next week, Austria’s hard lockdown will be lifted. The Austrian government plans to announce the new rules for this phase today at a press conference at 13:00.
    • We’ll be live-blogging the event as it unfolds.
  • The United Kingdom approved the Pfizer/Biontech vaccine against COVID-19.
    • The approval clears the way for deploying the vaccine in the UK starting next week.
    • “This is going to be one of the biggest civilian projects in history,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in a radio interview, with 50 hospitals preparing to administer the vaccine and 800,000 doses ready to be delivered from Belgium.

  

Benjamin Wolf
Benjamin studied Journalism, History and International Affairs. After stints with Cafébabel in Paris and Arte in Strasbourg, he is now working as managing editor and COO for Metropole in Vienna. Fields of expertise are politics, economics, culture, and history. Photo: Visual Hub

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