March 23, 2020 / 3:02 PM / 2 months ago

Austria mobilizes military reserves to fight coronavirus

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria is mobilizing its military reservists for the first time since World War Two, asking them to fight the coronavirus outbreak by helping with food supplies, medical support and police operations, the defense minister said.

Austria, unlike Germany or France, still has compulsory military service. Men must serve six months in the army or nine months in a civilian service when they reach 18.

Around 3,000 soldiers - 10% of the reserves - will for three months take over coronavirus-related tasks from soldiers whose military service expires in May, defense minister Klaudia Tanner told a news conference.

Austria has reported nearly 4,000 cases with 21 deaths so far. Popular ski regions in its western province of Tyrol, including Ischgl and St. Anton, have emerged as hotspots for the European spread of the virus, leading to a complete lockdown of the province last week.

Prosecutors in the regional capital Innsbruck are examining whether to open an investigation into whether a case in Ischgl was reported too late, a spokesman said.

Local and international media have criticized provincial authorities, saying they responded too late to the coronavirus outbreak and did not warn tourists in time.

Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Giles Elgood

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