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Health News

Austria orders first local quarantine of its second COVID-19 wave

FILE PHOTO: Health care workers exchange a fast PCR test sample in a mobile laboratory truck, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Soelden, Austria, October 15, 2020. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria on Thursday ordered the first local quarantine of its second wave of coronavirus infections, in a town near Salzburg, as cases nationally hit a new high.

Austria’s government wants to avoid an economically harmful second nationwide lockdown but infections continue to rise. It is particularly worried about tourism, which provides about 6% of economic output directly, with the ski season fast approaching.

The government of Salzburg, a province that borders Germany and which has the country’s third-highest number of cases relative to its population, ordered a two-week quarantine in Kuchl, a town of roughly 7,000 half an hour’s drive south of the city of Salzburg.

“The situation in Kuchl is getting completely out of control. We have no clusters that can be determined anymore. It is cutting through families, though all groups and layers of the population,” Salzburg’s Governor Wilfried Haslauer told a news conference.

He said the aim was to avoid a second lockdown, outlining additional measures in a wider area including the city of Salzburg, such as distance learning for school pupils aged roughly 14 or older. The changes will take effect from Saturday.

Salzburg is one of Austria’s three main skiing provinces, which last month together brought closing time for bars forward to 10 p.m. to slow the spread of the virus. Germany, Austria’s main source of foreign visitors, has already issued travel warnings for the other two, Tyrol and Vorarlberg.

Nationally, daily cases hit a new record of 1,552 on Thursday.

During the first wave of infections Austria stayed well within its hospital and intensive care capacity. Officials warned that this time Salzburg was approaching its limit.

“If it continues this explosively, this exponentially, then we will be at the limit of capacity in roughly 10 to 12 days,” Salzburg’s health minister, Christian Stoeckl, said.

Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Tomasz Janowski

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