Austria opts for more face masks, smaller events as coronavirus advances

VIENNA (Reuters) – Austria is responding to an increase in coronavirus infections by making face-masks compulsory in more places including all shops and school corridors, and limiting the size of private events indoors to 50 people, the government said on Friday.

The Alpine nation quickly brought its first wave of infections under control with an early lockdown in mid-March that it began lifting a month later. However, daily cases have been rising since late June and hit their highest level since late March on Thursday.

“It is getting serious again. The numbers have kept rising in recent weeks,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, a conservative governing with the Greens, told a news conference outlining the new measures. “I ask you to be more careful again.”

Face masks, currently required on public transport and in shops considered essential such as supermarkets and post offices, will have to be worn in all shops and in schools but not in classrooms. Waiters will also be required to wear them, Kurz said. The new measures take effect from Monday.

Events without assigned seating, including private parties, will be limited to 50 people indoors and 100 outdoors.

Professionally organised events with assigned seating will be capped at 1,500 people indoors and 3,000 outdoors, slashing the current limits of 5,000 and 10,000.

“Our clear aim as a government is to avoid a second lockdown for Austria. We will, however, only succeed if everyone does their part,” Kurz said, adding that measures would be tightened further if infections keep rising.

Reporting by Thomas Escritt in Berlin and Francois Murphy in Vienna; Editing by Caroline Copley and Gareth Jones

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