Austria orders curfew and shuts restaurants to fight ‘exploding’ COVID

By Francois Murphy

VIENNA (Reuters) – Austria on Saturday announced a nighttime curfew and the closure of cafes, bars and restaurants to all but take-away service as a surge in coronavirus infections threatens to overwhelm its hospitals.

The Alpine country had a swift and effective lockdown during its first wave of infections in March but had held off similar action this month to help the economy, even as daily cases rose to several times the spring peak.

With daily infections at a record 5,627 on Friday, however – just short of the 6,000 level at which the government says hospitals will no longer cope – the conservative-led government was forced to act.

“We did not take this decision lightly but it is necessary,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told a news conference. The restrictions include an 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew and will be in effect from Tuesday until the end of November.

Factories, shops, kindergartens and primary schools will remain open, however, while secondary schools and universities will switch to distance learning. Exercise or walks will still be allowed after curfew.

Restaurants, bars and cafes may provide a take-away service only; theatres and museums will shut, as will indoor sports facilities such as gyms; hotels will close to all but a few guests such as business travellers.

Businesses forced to close will receive aid amounting to 80% of their sales a year earlier.

NUMBERS ‘EXPLODING’

In the past two weeks, Austria had about as many cases as Britain or Italy, relative to its population, data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) shows. And there has been a rapid acceleration over the past week, with a 26% jump from Thursday to Friday.

“A barely controllable increase has begun,” Health Minister Rudolf Anschober told the news conference, adding that infections were “de facto exploding”.

Austria’s measures closely resemble those being taken by neighbouring Germany, which has less than half its infection rate, according to the ECDC data.

Austria has already limited private indoor gatherings to six people and it is now adding a rule that no more than two households can meet.

“We can’t say how strongly the population will support these measures and how strong their effect will be,” Kurz said, adding that he aimed to start easing the restrictions gradually in December.

(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Ros Russell)

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N.J.’s Largest City Shuts Down Again as Virus Cases Surge

“It was a smart move to act early — absolutely,” Dr. Elnahal said. “You have Halloween and you have Thanksgiving a short time after that. We really have to get ahead of making sure people know that they shouldn’t gather indoors.”

With 20 patients hospitalized with Covid-19, University Hospital has activated its surge plans, drawing on lessons learned in the spring when it was treating 300 patients sick from the virus at a time.

“The advantage we have now, that we didn’t have in the spring, is experience,” Dr. Elnahal said.

In the Ironbound on Monday, city officials went door to door to restaurants, hardware stores and barbershops, handing out pamphlets detailing Mr. Baraka’s executive order and the extra safety protocols that are now required.

The sidewalks at dinner time were filled mainly with residents returning from jobs at construction sites and other essential businesses. Most wore masks, and signage about social distancing was omnipresent, filling the windows of storefronts and fences along Ferry Street, the main business corridor.

“At what point do small businesses have a leg to stand on to survive?” said Joe Downar Jr., a son of the owners of The Deep Inn, a bar that had already shut down its pool tables, dart boards and jukebox.

Newark has 15 testing sites, including one in the Ann Street School parking lot in the Ironbound neighborhood. Like all public schools in Newark, the building is closed to students, who are taking all classes online because of the pandemic. Orange cones and yellow caution tape now line the lot to guide residents arriving on foot as they wait in line for a virus test.

From Friday to Sunday, of the 284 people tested within the 07105 ZIP code, 84 were positive for the virus, city officials said. And across the city, those getting sick are more likely to be Latino — a change from the first wave of the virus, when Black residents of Newark were more likely to be diagnosed with Covid-19, according to the city’s health director, Dr. Mark Wade.

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School shuts because self-isolating site manager has keys

Temple Meadow Primary School and Nursery in Cradley Heath, West Midlands (Picture: SWNS)
Temple Meadow Primary School has shut temporarily after its site manager tested positive for coronavirus. (SWNS)

A primary school has decided to shut because nobody had a key to get in after its site manager tested positive for coronavirus. 

Temple Meadow Primary School, in Cradley Heath, West Midlands, will be closed until Thursday due to an apparent lack of a “suitable key holder”.

It comes after the site manager tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday night, meaning the school couldn’t get access to open the site.

Authorities said the assistant site manager was also unavailable to open the school, because he had been in contact with his superior.

The school will re-open on Thursday (Picture: SWNS).
The school will reopen on Thursday. (SWNS)

Confused parents have criticised the school’s decision to close for three days, with some offering to go and fetch the keys themselves.

A mum who did not wish to be named said: “For the school to close because they can’t get a key to open up is the most bizarre thing we’ve ever heard.

“We all understand precautions have to be taken during the pandemic but this is way over-the-top and the lamest excuse I’ve ever seen.

“Why not just clean or disinfect the set of keys, leave them outside and wear gloves to pick them up?

“We thought it was due to an outbreak, but it’s just down to one member of staff who is now self-isolating.

“It’s a shame the kids’ education has to suffer because nobody has a key to get into the school. Imagine if it this happened at a big shop, somebody would lose their job.”

Watch: People in England face £10,000 fines for not self-isolating

Temple Meadow headteacher Cathy Walsh wrote in a letter to parents on Monday confirming the reasons it had shut and saying there had been no wider COVID outbreak. 

Walsh said on Wednesday that the school would be reopening for most students on Thursday after authorities “found solutions”.

She added: “We have a complex site at Temple Meadow but I am delighted to say we have found solutions to the issues that have arisen. 

“We are now in a position to reopen to all year groups – apart from Year 5 – on Thursday (22 October). 

“Year 5 is currently closed due to a separate and unrelated positive COVID-19 case in our school community.

“The safety of our staff and pupils on our school site is always our top priority.

“We work closely with public health professionals and continue to follow all the advice and guidance to keep our staff and pupils safe.”

Lisa McNally, the local director of public health, said: “We are pleased the team at Temple Meadow Primary have found a solution to reopen this week.

“Parents and carers can be assured that schools have good infection control measures in place.

“We are continuing to do all we can, working with schools, to keep children and young people safely back in education.”

Watch: How will England’s three-tier local lockdown system

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