Austria caps private indoor gatherings at 10 people as COVID-19 advances

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VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria is limiting private indoor gatherings to 10 people in the face of rising coronavirus infections, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Thursday, a day after Germany issued a travel warning for the Austrian capital.

The Alpine nation's confirmed cases have been increasing since late June and that rise has accelerated in recent weeks, with daily infections here regularly matching those last seen in late March, when a lockdown was in place.

Having announced only last Friday that private indoor gatherings would be limited to 50 people, the government doubled down on Thursday, lowering the limit and announcing other new measures, particularly in bars and restaurants.

“These are restrictions that hurt but they are restrictions that are necessary to hopefully prevent a second lockdown,” Kurz told a news conference, saying the new measures would apply as of Monday and the only exception would be for funerals, though higher existing limits for professional events remain unchanged.

Other new measures include only allowing restaurants and bars to serve seated customers, at tables of no more than 10, and extending the requirement to wear face masks to markets and when moving around restaurants and bars. Face masks are already required in shops and on public transport.

Germany and Belgium on Wednesday issued travel warnings for Vienna, where most of Austria’s cases are concentrated. The move is a fresh blow to the city’s tourism industry, which is running at a fraction of capacity and for which Germany is the biggest remaining source of foreign visitors.

Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Hugh Lawson, Kirsten Donovan