Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz
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Austria prepares tighter restrictions as new daily COVID cases pass 4,000

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler and Health Minister Rudolf Anschober along with a number of health experts are meeting on Thursday afternoon to discuss implementing new measures to curb the spread of the virus.

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While the government has refused to rule out putting in place a ‘lockdown light’ similar to that adopted in Germany, Austrian media reports that the most likely option on the table is a nighttime curfew. 

Record infections – again

On Thursday morning, 4,453 new infections were recorded across the country – the first time since the start of the pandemic when more than 4,000 cases have been recorded in a 24-hour period. 

A total of 29 deaths were recorded across the country from Wednesday to Thursday. 

When comparing Austria’s federal states, the most new, confirmed cases were in Lower Austria (1,074), followed by Vienna (821), Upper Austria (796), Tyrol (584), Styria (355), Salzburg (262), Vorarlberg (261) and Carinthia (166) and Burgenland (119).

The Alpine nation’s conservative-led government has repeatedly said it wants to avoid an economically harmful second lockdown and currently has relatively loose restrictions in place – restaurants, bars and theatres remain open.

But new daily cases have kept rising, reaching 4,435 in the past 24 hours on Thursday in a country of just under 9 million. Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said the point at which hospitals would be stretched beyond their capacity was roughly 6,000, which his health minister said could be close to being reached by the end of next week.

“We as a government must of course react to that. We have therefore invited the social partners tomorrow, we will hold discussions on Saturday with the other parliamentary parties and with the provincial governors, and afterwards inform the public about the next steps,” Kurz told a news conference.

The term ‘social partners’ refers to employers’ and labour representatives, with whom economic aid measures relating to employment are usually hammered out. Kurz declined to say what measures would be taken or whether they would amount to a form of lockdown like those recently announced by Germany and France.

Health Minister Rudolf Anschober said recent measures like limiting private indoor gatherings to six people were too little to slow the rapidly rising infections: “Given the dramatic momentum of this development we believe that will absolutely not be enough, that we must markedly, markedly adjust.”

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