Austria to impose second lockdown to curb COVID-19

File photo

VIENNA, Oct. 31 (Xinhua) -- Austria will go into a second national lockdown from Tuesday to the end of November to contain COVID-19, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced on Saturday.

"You know we are seeing an intense second wave all over Europe," said Kurz at a press conference, adding that many neighboring countries are already in a second lockdown.

With an almost "explosive increase" of new cases in Austria in the last week, there must be "hard measures," said the chancellor.

Kurz emphasized that it is a matter of reducing contacts, as "most of the infections take place with people who know and like each other."

Starting from Tuesday, exit restrictions will apply between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., during which leaving home is only permitted for specific reasons such as going to work. Kurz said that these restrictions are tantamount to a "visit ban" -- people were no longer allowed to be visited in the evening.

Under the lockdown rules, theaters, museums and leisure facilities such as swimming pools or fitness studios have to close, the catering industry is only allowed to offer pick-up and delivery services, and hotels are prohibited from accepting tourists.

In the education sector, high school and universities switch to distance learning, while kindergartens and compulsory schools remain open.

This time, in contrast to the first lockdown, retail escapes a closure, but social distancing must be properly implemented. Ten square meters must be available for each customer. If the shop is smaller, only one person can be admitted.

Austria reported 5,349 new COVID-19 infections within the past 24 hours, bringing its total number of cases to 104,925, according to data published by the Interior Ministry.

As of Saturday morning, 1,109 people had died, and 1,867 people are in hospitals for coronavirus treatment, 265 of them in intensive care units.

As the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, countries including France, China, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States are racing to find a vaccine.

According to the website of the World Health Organization, as of Oct. 19, there were 198 COVID-19 candidate vaccines being developed worldwide, and 44 of them were in clinical trials.