Dec 19, 2020 - World

Austria and Switzerland to impose new COVID-19 restrictions

Picture of a coronavirus testing center in Austria

Coronavirus testing in Austria. Photo: ALEX HALADA/AFP via Getty Images

Austria and Switzerland have both announced they will impose lockdown measures as novel coronavirus cases climb in each country.

By the numbers: Austria has more than 337,000 confirmed cases and over 5,200 deaths to date, while Switzerland has seen nearly 404,000 confirmed cases and over 6,500 deaths, per data from Johns Hopkins University.

  • Austria reported 2,085 daily cases on Friday and Switzerland confirmed 4,478.

The state of play: Austrian officials said the country will enter its third coronavirus lockdown after the Dec. 25 Christmas holiday, and 11 days after its second lockdown lapsed, Reuters reports.

  • Shops, restaurants, theaters, museums and schools will remain closed through at least the week of Jan. 18.
  • Mass COVID-19 tests will be administered between Jan. 15 and Jan .17 — those who test negative will be able to end their lockdown sooner. For those who do not get tested, lockdown will last until Jan. 24.
  • Ski resorts can continue to operate, but Austrian provinces will also have a say on whether they continue to run.

The Swiss government ordered all bars, restaurants, cultural venues and sports facilities to close beginning Dec. 22.

  • Stores can remain open with limited capacity and will be required to close at 7 p.m., on Sundays and public holidays.
  • Like Austria, the Swiss government is allowing states to decide whether to shutter skiing facilities.
    • During a press conference, health officials cautioned states, saying that "hospitals are full and putting a lot of people on snow slopes can lead to an increase in accidents and we need to be very careful."
  • They recommend people stay home, keep social contact to a minimum and avoid unnecessary travel.

Worth noting: "If Europeans were to follow the World Health Organization's advice, Christmas would have a very different feel this year," ABC News writes.

  • The WHO on Wednesday recommended that religious gatherings be postponed or canceled.
  • The organization further advised that European countries consider "postponing, limiting or cancelling mass gatherings" in ski resorts.
  • "Gatherings should be held outside if possible, and participants should wear masks and maintain physical distancing. If held indoors, limiting group size and ensuring good ventilation to reduce exposure risk are key," WHO said.
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