VIENNA (Reuters) – Austria will limit private gatherings to a maximum of six people indoors and 12 outside starting later this week to help curb a steady resurgence of coronavirus infections, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Monday.
Daily cases now regularly surpass the height of the first wave in March, but Austria’s response this time is different.
While the conservative-led government quickly introduced a national lockdown in March, it now wants to avoid that for fear of further damaging the economy and annoying voters.
“We are fully aware, ladies and gentlemen, that these measures are unpopular. They are unpopular but unfortunately they are necessary,” Kurz told a news conference, adding that infections were doubling roughly every three weeks.
The new rules, which lower the indoor limit from 10 currently, take effect on Friday. They will be different for professionally organised events, which will be capped at 1,500 people outdoors and 1,000 indoors, with a range of restrictions. Shops, restaurants, bars and theatres remain open.
The rules of six and 12 will be far-reaching, Kurz said.
“Fundamentally that applies everywhere. That means in restaurants as well as in yoga class, at dance lessons as well as at birthday parties, weddings or at members’ clubs. All gatherings outside work are covered,” he said, adding that there is an exception for funerals.
He conceded that police cannot generally check homes or take action simply because too many people are gathered there, though that appears to be one of the main places where infections occur. He warned, however, against taking advantage of that.
“If too many people in Austria have parties at home and are delighted that the police are unable to intervene, yes, that will work for a certain time but then that will lead to rising infection numbers and then the need for even tougher measures.”
(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Mark Heinrich)