Austria slows down New Year’s Eve celebrations to fight omicron

VIENNA – Austria on Wednesday announced a list of new restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the omicron variant, including closing restaurants earlier and imposing stricter entry requirements for people from countries where the variant is already dominant.

“Omicron presents us with the next epidemiological challenge,” said Katharina Reich, co-leader of the country’s new coronavirus crisis team, after a meeting between national leaders and state governors. “What we do know is that omicron is fast and we need to respond quickly.”

Austria is better placed than many other European countries to take on the new variant. Facing a massive wave of infections in November, the country imposed a three-week lockdown to reduce the number of daily cases.

Due to these restrictions, which ended for those vaccinated on December 12 but remain for those who have not been vaccinated, the number of cases continues to decline.

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As of Wednesday, the rate of new infections over 7 days in the country stood at 188.1 per 100,000 inhabitants, against a maximum of 1,100 per 100,000 at the end of November.

Despite the current “good position” of the country, Reich said further restrictions are needed because omicron “will also bring us drastic changes”.

From December 27, restaurants must close at 10 p.m., including on New Years Eve. Reich also urged people to rethink their New Year’s celebrations: “Celebrate the New Year in small groups,” he said. she declared.

In addition, officials said they will impose new limits and requirements for large gatherings, which will require proof that participants are vaccinated or recently recovered.

Indoor and outdoor gatherings without assigned seats will be limited to 25 people. With seats and masks allocated, that number rises to 500; with an additional PCR test, at 1,000. Events in which all participants received a booster dose of the vaccine can accommodate up to 2,000 people.

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Austria has also added four European countries – the UK, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway – to its list of “virus variant zones”, which comes with more stringent entry requirements.

Those who have received a booster vaccine and come with a recent negative PCR test will be allowed to enter from these countries without quarantine. Austrian and EU citizens who do not meet these requirements will still be allowed entry, but will face a mandatory 10-day quarantine.

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