Austria orders curfew and closure of eating places to fight the rise in COVID

© Reuters. Austria’s Federal Chancellor Kurz takes part in a press conference in Vienna

VIENNA (Reuters) – Austria announced on Saturday a night curfew and the closure of cafes, bars and restaurants for all but take away as coronavirus infections are nearing what the government says is unsustainable levels for its hospital system.

The country had a quick, comprehensive and effective lockdown during its first wave of infections in March, but had withheld similar measures even as daily cases soared to multiple times the spring peak. Bars, restaurants, and theaters remain open to encourage economic growth.

But after daily infections rose to more than 5,600 on Friday – a new record just below the 6,000 level the government says hospitals will be overburdened – the conservatively-led government was forced to act.

“We did not take this decision lightly, but it is necessary,” said Chancellor Sebastian Kurz at a press conference and announced the measures, which will come into force from Tuesday to the end of November, including a curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.

The measures are not completely locked as shops, industry, kindergartens and elementary schools remain open. Secondary schools and universities will switch to distance learning, Kurz said.

“Catering” establishments – a term that broadly includes restaurants, bars and cafes – are only allowed to provide take-away service and theaters will be closed. Hotels will close all but business travelers, Kurz said.

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