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Austria to start loosening coronavirus quarantine measures next week

The Austrian government announced on Monday that it will start to loosen strict measures to curb the coronavirus outbreak after the Easter weekend.

Vienna, 6 April 2020 (dpa/MIA) – The Austrian government announced on Monday that it will start to loosen strict measures to curb the coronavirus outbreak after the Easter weekend.

Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz said that small shops as well as construction and gardening stores would be allowed to reopen if they uphold strict hygiene standards from April 14.

On May 1, all shops, malls and hairdressers will be allowed to reopen, while hotels and restaurants will be closed at least until mid-May.

Restrictions on movement will remain in place until the end of April, while schools will be shuttered until mid-May. There will be no public events until the end of June, the government said.

“The rapid and restrictive reaction now gives us the opportunity to come out of the crisis more quickly,” Kurz said. “But only if we continue to follow the measures and remain as united as we have been.”

The announcement makes Austria one of the first countries in hard-hit Europe to loosen some of its coronavirus-related restrictions. Denmark and the Czech Republic have also announced that some restrictions will be loosened after Easter.

Also on Monday, the Austrian government tripled the amount of money available to companies instituting short-time work policies in an effort to reduce their financial burden during the coronavirus crisis.

Short-time work is the temporary reduction of working hours with a corresponding reduction in pay; the loss in remuneration for the employees is partially compensated by the government.

Finance Minister Gernot Bluemel and Labour Minister Christine Aschbacher said the amount of money available would be increased to some 3 billion euros (3.2 billion dollars), according to a report from the APA news agency.

“Coronavirus-related short-time work has saved some 400,000 jobs in Austria so far,” the report cited Aschbacher as saying, adding that some 23,000 applications had been submitted as of Friday.

Austria currently has some 12,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, with more than 200 patients having died as a result of Covid-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus.

The daily increase of cases currently stands at around 2 per cent, compared to increases of around 20 per cent in mid-March, when the restrictions were imposed.

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