June 24, 2020 / 7:58 AM / 2 months ago

Austria warns against travel to German state after abattoir outbreak

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria has issued a warning against travel to the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia after a coronavirus outbreak at a slaughterhouse there, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Wednesday.

More than 1,500 workers at the abattoir in the town of Guetersloh, home to some 100,000 people, have tested positive for the virus, prompting the state to put Guetersloh and a neighbouring town back under lockdown.

“Our neighbour Germany has shown with the region of North Rhine-Westphalia how quickly a dramatic situation can arise,” Kurz told a news conference, announcing the travel warning. “We ... hope, of course, that the situation there will improve quickly and there is no further spread to all of Germany.”

The move puts the state in the same category as the Italian region of Lombardy, the epicentre of Italy’s novel coronavirus outbreak, which was one of the worst in Europe.

Kurz said it also means there will be no direct flights between Austria and the state, which includes the cities of Bonn, Cologne and Duesseldorf, the headquarters of Lufthansa’s (LHAG.DE) budget airline Eurowings.

Austria, whose tourism industry relies heavily on German visitors, pushed for a rapid mutual lifting of coronavirus-related restrictions at the countries’ shared border. Both have since lifted them for each other and arrivals from most other European Union countries.

Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Catherine Evans and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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