Wednesday, April 14

Relaxation in Austria: schools open, ski slopes empty

AOn Wednesday, the government in Vienna announced how the corona containment measures should continue in Austria. The most important points that Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz listed: After almost three weeks of extensive closure, it will be cautiously relaxed from next week. All shops are allowed to reopen, most of the pupils (with the exception of upper school) are taught at school again, and you can go out of the house again during the day without a specific reason – all subject to conditions.

Stephan Löwenstein

Hotels, inns, pubs and cultural institutions will remain closed until after the Christmas holidays. And stricter entry rules will apply at the borders from mid-December – the exact date is still being negotiated: Those who come from countries with a 14-day incidence of more than 100 infections per 100,000 inhabitants have to be in a ten-day quarantine and can at most after five days “Freitest” let. Above all, the government wants to prevent people with a migration background from traveling to their home countries over Christmas.

Wishes from abroad were not decisive

This also applies to a topic that has received a lot of attention in Germany: skiing holidays. This is canceled for the Christmas holidays – not so much because of the entry rules, but because hotels and other holiday accommodation are closed. With this, Vienna is effectively meeting the demands of Rome, Paris, Berlin and, last but not least, Munich. Kurz explained in detail that they were in no way based on wishes from abroad, but exclusively on the domestic health needs. The development of new infections is gratifying thanks to the strict closure, but the level is still alarmingly high.

As if to increase the agony of tantalum in the neighboring countries, the ski slopes will be opened before Christmas. Lifts and cable cars may then also be put into operation. Because – so the reasoning – there is nothing wrong with individual sport in the open air. And gondolas are basically public means of mass transportation like subways, and there are suitable concepts for this. This may be some consolation for the tourism industry, albeit a weak one.

Only scaled-down mass tests

Another concept, with which Austria also wanted to distinguish itself internationally, threatens to be frayed in the domestic political squabble. It is the intention of mass testing. Kurz had announced it in mid-November and named Slovakia as a model. Almost the entire adult population was examined for a corona infection in a large-scale action over a weekend with rapid tests. In Austria, the move met with reservations: from some health professionals who questioned its effectiveness; in the federal states because of the organizational difficulties, especially the SPÖ-led, but partly also state governors from Kurz’s ÖVP; and even the green coalition partner, who in Rudolf Anschober provides the responsible health minister, did not immediately jump on the subject.

The tests are now taking place in a slimmed-down form. There has already been a regional test run. Now it’s the turn of the professional groups like the teachers, who should be in front of their students again from next week. The population is called on – also on a voluntary basis – from state to state on different dates to take the tests. Surprisingly, Vienna, whose Social Democratic Health Councilor Peter Hacker was one of the loudest skeptics, has now rushed ahead and begins on Friday. The organization took place accordingly head over heels. There is no advertising either, on the contrary. Since Hacker continues to comment on the project with demonstrative listlessness, the impression arises that he would not be unhappy if the Chancellor’s project were to go wild.

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