ZURICH (Reuters) - Austria’s chancellor announced major restrictions on movement in public places on Sunday, banning gatherings of more than five persons and urging Austrians to self-isolate, as well as putting further limits on who can enter the country.
The restrictions on public movement and gatherings will come into force on Monday, while restaurants are ordered closed from Tuesday, when new restrictions on entering the country will also take effect, a government spokesman said.
“Austrians are being summoned to isolate themselves,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s office said in a statement. “That means only making social contact with the people with whom they live.”
People should only leave the house for work that could not be postponed, to buy necessary food supplies and to help others, it said.
The western region of Tyrol, home to popular ski resorts where Austria’s first cases were reported and where 245 cases had been confirmed as of Sunday morning, announced a total lockdown on Sunday, with its governor saying the region found itself in “the most difficult situation we’ve ever faced in the post-war years”.
Gatherings of more than five people will be allowed only for activities serving to fight the coronavirus outbreak, the chancellor’s office added.
People who urgently want to go into the outdoors “may do so, but only alone or with people living in the same apartment,” Kurz told Austrian news service APA.
Police would already be stationed at playgrounds and outdoors from Sunday, he told APA, and would ask large groups to disband.
The country had 800 cases and one death by 0700GMT on Sunday, according to its health ministry.
Austria also expanded its list of countries from which it restricts entry, adding Britain, the Netherlands, Russia and Ukraine. It said people traveling from countries on the list could enter only if they undertook two weeks of home quarantine after entering the country or had a current health certificate.
In an interview Sunday evening, Chancellor Kurz said the government intended to bring overall air traffic to a halt but was currently maintaining minimal flight connections in order to bring Austrians abroad back home.
“There are many Austrians abroad we are currently bringing home, but once that is completed, flight connections to any place with a risk will be completely stopped,” he said on Austrian broadcaster ORF2. “The airport is already down to 20% operation...Whoever is abroad and wants to come to Austria should urgently make themselves on their way, or contact the foreign ministry to be brought back home.”
Austria has already closed its borders to most arrivals from neighbouring Switzerland and Italy because of the coronavirus outbreaks there and previously announced other measures, such as shutting schools and most shops other than those selling food and medicine from Monday.
It said on Saturday it was making 4 billion euros ($4.4 billion) immediately available to deal with the economic fallout from the pandemic.
Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi and Francois Murphy; Editing by Frances Kerry, Alexandra Hudson and Diane Craft