Austria Set to Loosen Coronavirus Restrictions in February

Customers wearing face masks and pushing shopping carts line up in front of a DIY store in Innsbruck, Austria, after it re-opened on April 14, 2020, following a "shutdown" in a measure to limit the spread of the new coronavirus. (Photo by Erich SPIESS / various sources / AFP) / …
ERICH SPIESS/EXPA/AFP via Getty Images

VIENNA (AP) – Austria plans to loosen coronavirus restrictions in February, government officials announced Saturday.

Starting Feb. 5, restaurants will be allowed to remain open until midnight, as opposed to 10 p.m, Chancellor Karl Nehammer said at a Saturday news conference.

In addition, rules effectively barring unvaccinated people from stores and restaurants will be phased out. Starting Feb. 12, proof of vaccination or recovery will no longer be required to enter shops. A week later, on Feb. 19, entry into restaurants will be allowed for all who can prove vaccination, recovery or a negative coronavirus test.

Nehammer also said last week that lockdown restrictions for vaccinated people, which have been in place since November, will end on Monday.

The new loosened restrictions were announced just days before the country´s national vaccine mandate, the first of its kind in Europe, goes into effect on Feb. 1.

The Sunday announcement comes in spite of record-high case numbers in recent days. On Friday, Austria reported 34,748 new cases of the virus. As of Thursday the 7-day rate of infections stands at 2,381.2 per 100,000 inhabitants, which is about 10 times as high as the rate at the start of January.

Still, Nehammer said, the current low rate of patients hospitalized due to the virus means additional steps toward normalcy are possible. Officials have said they expect the omicron wave to peak in the first week of February.

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