Austria introducing rule of six for indoor gatherings

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Austria is limiting gatherings to a maximum of six people indoors and 12 outside, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Monday, to battle a steady rise in coronavirus infections.

Daily cases now regularly surpass the height of the first wave in March, but Austria’s response this time is different.

While the conservative-led government quickly introduced a national lockdown in March, it now wants to avoid that for fear of further damaging the economy and annoying voters.

“We are fully aware, ladies and gentlemen, that these measures are unpopular. They are unpopular but unfortunately they are necessary,” Kurz told a news conference, adding that infections were doubling roughly every three weeks.

Shops, restaurants, bars and theatres remain open.

Of nine provinces, the three that rely most heavily on winter tourism have already brought forward bars’ closing time to 10 p.m. from the usual 2 a.m. to slow the virus’ spread before the ski season.

The new rules take effect on Friday and will be different for professionally organised events, which will be capped at 1,500 people outdoors and 1,000 indoors. The one exception for private gatherings is for funerals, but Kurz conceded that the police would not generally be checking private homes either. 

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