Austrian shops reopen as coronavirus lockdown is loosened

Austria becomes one of the first countries in Europe to loosen lockdown imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Elad Benari, Canada ,

Customers line up outside store after Austrian government loosens lockdown
Customers line up outside store after Austrian government loosens lockdown

Austria allowed thousands of shops to reopen on Tuesday as it became one of the first countries in Europe to loosen a lockdown imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Reuters reports.

Austria acted early in its outbreak to close schools, bars, theaters, restaurants, non-essential shops and other gathering places roughly four weeks ago. It has told the public to stay home and work from there if possible.

So far, 384 deaths have been reported in Austria from COVID-19, fewer than some larger European countries have been suffering each day.

The daily increase in confirmed cases has fallen to low single digits in percentage terms and hospitalizations have stabilized.

However, critics voiced concerns that easing the restrictions could lead to a resurgence of the virus.

Last week, the conservative-led government outlined a step-by-step plan to reopen parts of the economy, starting with shops of up to 400 square meters (4,300 square feet) - roughly twice the playing area of a singles tennis court - as well as all DIY and garden centers on Tuesday.

They are due to be followed by shopping centers, larger shops and hairdressers from May 1.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz recently said that it was a phone call from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that made him act to curb the virus.

“I contacted Bibi Netanyahu and he told me his opinion, that several countries in Europe aren’t doing enough and that he is concerned that Europe isn’t treating the problem as it should,” he told Israel’s Kan 11 News in an interview two weeks ago.

“This, of course, caused us to treat the issue more firmly and quickly make decisions. I thank Bibi Netanyahu for the conversation we held a few weeks ago which led to the fact that we were the first to respond in Europe,” added the Chancellor.

Other European countries are loosening their lockdowns, albeit differently. On Monday, Spain allowed some activities, including construction and manufacturing, to resume. Denmark is reopening daycare centers and some schools on Wednesday.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of the Seventh Day of Passover in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)