VIENNA (Reuters) – Austria will announce tighter restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus on Saturday, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said, as the daily tally of new cases surged past 4,000 to a new record on Thursday.
The Alpine nation’s conservative-led government has repeatedly said it wants to avoid an economically harmful second lockdown and currently has relatively loose restrictions in place – restaurants, bars and theatres remain open.
But new daily cases have kept rising, reaching 4,435 in the past 24 hours on Thursday in a country of just under 9 million. Kurz said the point at which hospitals would be stretched beyond their capacity was roughly 6,000, which his health minister said could be close to being reached by the end of next week.
“We as a government must of course react to that. We have therefore invited the social partners tomorrow, we will hold discussions on Saturday with the other parliamentary parties and with the provincial governors, and afterwards inform the public about the next steps,” Kurz told a news conference.
The term ‘social partners’ refers to employers’ and labour representatives, with whom economic aid measures relating to employment are usually hammered out. Kurz declined to say what measures would be taken or whether they would amount to a form of lockdown like those recently announced by Germany and France.
Health Minister Rudolf Anschober said recent measures like limiting private indoor gatherings to six people were too little to slow the rapidly rising infections: “Given the dramatic momentum of this development we believe that will absolutely not be enough, that we must markedly, markedly adjust.”
(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Alison Williams, William Maclean)