Austria sets out plan to reopen many sectors in mid-May


BERLIN — Austria plans to reopen restaurants, bars, hotels, cultural and sports facilities on May 19 after several months of restrictions and closures, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Friday.

Announcing the plan for a wide-ranging relaxation of coronavirus curbs, Kurz said that people wanting to use the facilities that are reopening will have to be tested or vaccinated, or to have recovered from a COVID-19 infection.

He said that some other restrictions will remain in place: a maximum 10 people per table will be allowed outside restaurants and four adults per table inside. And there will be limits on how many people can use gyms, for example.

Cultural and sports events will be allowed with a maximum 1,500 spectators indoors and 3,000 outdoors — with masks and assigned seats.

“These steps toward opening are happening with strict safety concepts, but they are happening and that is the good news,” Kurz said.

He pointed to Austria’s accelerating vaccination campaign and said authorities aim to loosen restrictions further by July 1, for example allowing wedding parties and events without assigned seats.

Tourism is an important industry for the Alpine country and Kurz said: “I would like to mention explicitly that we are of course looking forward to seeing guests from abroad again from May 19.” Quarantine requirements will remain in place for some “high-risk areas.”

Kurz said that authorities aim to return to in-person teaching in schools, where possible, on May 17.

Austria was one of the first countries in Western Europe to mandate the use of masks last year, and the government was able to ease its first lockdown quickly.

Like several other European countries, it has struggled since the fall to find a balance between allowing and restricting activities. Austria bet heavily on opening up some sectors for people with negative tests, but hadn’t until now been able to break a succession of lockdowns — at least in some regions.

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