World News

Austria sets up night train service to bring care workers from Romania

FILE PHOTO: A nurse wearing a protective gear checks a temperature of a person at a one-time special passage created to help people cross the Hungary-Austria border in Hegyeshalom, Hungary, March 17, 2020. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria is setting up a weekly night train connection passing through Hungary into Romania to bring care workers across largely closed borders during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Alpine republic’s nursing care system is heavily reliant on eastern European labour, and it has opened its borders to workers commuting short distances from neighbouring Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovenia.

But the top country of origin for care workers in Austria is Romania, which is on the other side of Hungary. Rather than fly them in and out, Austria is setting up the night train service from May 2, which can transport more people in a single trip, while keeping them further apart.

“I am glad that despite border closures we were able to develop a joint corridor solution for workers from Romania,” Austria’s Europe Minister Caroline Edtstadler said in a statement, adding that roughly 33,000 people in Austria depend on 24-hour care.

The direct connection to Timisoara in Romania, near the borders with Hungary and Serbia, will start with one train a week but could be increased to three a week, the statement added.

Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Mark Potter