Soft opening steps for schools and trade?

As of Monday, the government will consult with experts, state governors and opposition leaders on the way forward in the fight against the pandemic. After six weeks of lockdown, there could be the first opening steps starting Feb. 8: in retail, in service providers close to the body and in schools – which are expected to return to face-to-face classes in shifts. However, the lockdown will not end, given the still-high infection numbers. “The mutations are putting the brakes on a complete relaxation,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) said in a statement published by the “Sonntagspresse”.

The effects that the faster-growing British variant can have in combination with generous openings, he said, became visible in the United Kingdom and Ireland at the beginning of January or also showed the development in Portugal and Spain. Here, there has been strong exponential growth in a very short period of time, which can quickly bring healthcare systems to their breaking point, the government warns. “Under these conditions, possible opening steps, which could be set from February 8, are of course only possible under strict accompanying measures. Regular testing, the minimum distance and the wearing of FFP2 masks will in any case be an important component of this.”

One will “together with the experts once again discuss how we can create very carefully and controlled openings in initial areas without taking too high a risk,” announced Health Minister Rudolf Anschober (Greens).

The number of new infections in Austria continues to show a slight downward trend. At the same time, the more infectious virus variants, such as the British mutation, are spreading more and more, partially undoing the success of the current lockdown. In eastern Austria, it can already be assumed that the share of the Briten virus in new infections is in the double-digit percentage range – with an upward trend. In western Austria, the share is still in the single-digit percentage range. First evaluations from Tyrol show a share of eight percent.

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