VIENNA (Reuters) – Austria has postponed the reopening of café, restaurant and bar terraces planned for March 27 due to rising coronavirus cases and is preparing for regions to adapt restrictions locally, the government said on Monday.
Infections have been increasing steadily since Austria loosened its third lockdown on Feb. 8 by letting non-essential shops reopen despite stubbornly high COVID-19 cases. A night-time curfew replaced all-day restrictions on movement.
The number of new infections reported rose above 3,500 on Friday, the highest level since early December, when cases were falling during the second national lockdown.
The government met with the governors of its nine provinces on Monday to review its plan to let terraces reopen next weekend in all but one of them, after the small Alpine province of Vorarlberg got a head start earlier this month.
“The experts have advised us not to carry out any more loosening of restrictions here, unfortunately,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said of most provinces, adding three hard-hit eastern ones including Vienna would work on extra measures.
A government source said loosening of restrictions could happen in some regions after Easter if intensive-care figures are stable.
Last week the hardest-hit provinces were Vienna and the province surrounding it, Lower Austria, as well as Burgenland, which borders Hungary. The latest government data shows them in the top five in terms of infection rates and intensive care bed use, with Salzburg and Upper Austria.
(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Janet Lawrence)