Austria will offer coronavirus tests to its entire population as country prepares for third lockdown


Austria will offer coronavirus tests to its entire 8.8 million population, with those testing negative receiving ‘more freedoms’ as the country prepares for third lockdown.

The European country will go into coronavirus lockdown for a third time after Christmas, the government confirmed on Friday, just 11 days after the country’s second lockdown ended.

Austria’s lockdown will run between December 26 and January 24, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced on Friday, as the country fights to lower its infection rate.

But Kurz said those who take part in a planned series of mass testing programmes between January 15 and 17 will be allowed more freedom, such as visiting cultural events and restaurants. 

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz speaks at a press conference on Friday where he announced that Austria will go into a third lockdown from December 26, but that people who particpiate in a mass testing programme could enjoy more freedoms 

Hotels and cultural venues will be expected to check test results on arrival, while the police will carry out random checks in other areas, Kurz said.

The measures were ‘the only possible way to re-open tourism, cultural life, restaurants and cafes during the pandemic and at the same time avoid numbers exploding again’, Kurz said.

For the first three weeks of the lockdown, non-essential stores will close as will services such as hairdressers where physical proximity is unavoidable.

Movement outside the home will once again be restricted to purposes such as buying food or taking exercise.

However, from January 18, stores and restaurants will open again for those who have tested negative.

Schools will resume face-to-face teaching on the same date.

Those who do not take part in the mass tests will have to wear FFP 2 masks where otherwise a simpler face covering would suffice, for example while at work or buying food.

Rules surrounding how and whether to allow outdoor sports – including skiing – will be left for local authorities to determine.

Since Austria came out of its last lockdown earlier this month, the daily rate of new infections has mostly stayed between 2,000 and 3,000 per day but Kurz said on Friday that the aim was to bring the seven-day incidence of new cases under 100 per 100,000 inhabitants.

Pictured: A graph showing Austria's seven-day-rolling average new daily coronavirus cases

Pictured: A graph showing Austria’s seven-day-rolling average new daily coronavirus cases

Pictured: A graph showing Austria's seven-day-rolling average new daily coronavirus deaths

Pictured: A graph showing Austria’s seven-day-rolling average new daily coronavirus deaths

The government said the latest lockdown would be the first of three phases in fighting the pandemic.

The second phase will include weekly testing for professions including teachers and those who serve customers in shops and restaurants, with care home workers tested twice a week.

The third phase is the mass vaccination campaign, expected to begin on 27 December in tandem with countries across the EU.

But nevertheless Kurz warned the prognosis for the first few months of 2021 was ‘very, very gloomy’, with a return to normality only expected in the summer.

Austrian ski lifts are being allowed to reopen on December 24, though restaurants, hotels and bars will remain closed.

Austrian ski lifts are being allowed to reopen on December 24, though restaurants, hotels and bars will remain closed, despite the third lockdown from December 26

Austrian ski lifts are being allowed to reopen on December 24, though restaurants, hotels and bars will remain closed, despite the third lockdown from December 26 

Europe’s ski season was plunged into chaos in March when resorts became sites for the early spread of the coronavirus.  

Many were forced to close in Austria, France, Italy, Germany and other European countries before the full scale of the crisis became clear.

On Thursday Europe passed the grim milestone of 500,000 coronavrius deaths, becoming the first world region to do so.  

Latin America and the Caribbean have reported 477,404 deaths, the United States and Canada 321,287, Asia 208,149, the Middle East 85,895, and Africa 57,423.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk