Sebastian Kurz
Sebastian Kurz Reuters

Austria could start easing its coronavirus lockdown measures starting next week, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Monday, though he warned that this depended on citizens abiding by social distancing rules.

"The aim is that from April 14... smaller shops up to a size of 400 square meters, as well as hardware and garden stores can open again, under strict security conditions of course," Kurz said at a press conference, according to the AFP news agency.

He added that if the government's timetable goes according to plan, larger shops will reopen on May 1 and hotels, restaurants and other services could also start to open in stages starting in mid-May.

Kurz stressed, however, that the restrictions on movement that Austria has introduced to fight the spread of COVID-19 remain in place for now and called on Austrians not to celebrate Easter with people outside their household.

Schools will remain closed until mid-May and public events will remain banned until the end of June, he added.

Austria currently has 12,058 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 204 deaths and 2,998 people who have recovered.

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.