Vienna and nearby regions to reinstate coronavirus lockdown over Easter

FILE PHOTO: Tables and chairs are seen next to a closed restaurant as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown continues in Vienna, Austria March 22, 2021. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

VIENNA (Reuters) - Vienna and two other provinces in eastern Austria will go back into lockdown for several days over Easter in a bid to ease the growing strain on intensive care wards from rising coronavirus infections, Austria’s health minister said on Wednesday.

The three provinces - Vienna and the province surrounding it, Lower Austria, as well as Burgenland, which borders Hungary - have been working on tighter restrictions with the Health Ministry after the conservative-led government decided on Monday the rest of the country’s curbs would remain unchanged.

Of Austria’s nine provinces, those three are among the hardest-hit and have high levels of the more contagious British variant of the coronavirus, which has been causing severe cases faster and in greater numbers.

“We want to introduce restrictions on movement as was the case in Austria before and after Christmas, from midnight until midnight,” Health Minister Rudolf Anschober told a news conference with the governors of the three provinces, referring to curbs during Austria’s second and third national lockdowns.

Anschober has spoken of a “looming collapse” in eastern Austria’s intensive-care wards and said recent projections by experts were so alarming that such strong action was necessary.

The lockdown will last from Thursday, April 1, until the following Tuesday. Non-essential shops, which reopened when Austria’s third lockdown was eased last month, will close over the same period.

In a normal year virtually all shops are closed on Easter Sunday and Monday.

Face masks of the FFP2 standard, which are already required on public transport and in shops, will also be compulsory in crowded outdoor spaces, Anschober said, adding that a negative coronavirus test result would then be required to enter non-essential shops at of April 7.

Reporting by Francois Murphy, Editing by William Maclean and Sonya Hepinstall