Austria warns against travel to Tyrol, eases virus curbs

Austria has issued a warning against travel to its Tyrol province amid concerns over cases of a coronavirus variant first discovered in South Africa

Officials have been discussing for days whether extra restrictions are required in Tyrol, a popular skiing destination. Federal authorities say 293 infections with the more contagious variant first discovered in South Africa have been confirmed in Tyrol.

The regional government on Monday drew up a list of measures that included calls for people to avoid nonessential travel, more police checks on mask-wearing and social distancing, and a requirement for negative antigen tests before people can use cable cars and ski lifts.

“Everything must be done to prevent these (virus) mutations spreading ever further,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said.

Austria’s overall relaxation of restrictions is far from complete. People going to the hairdresser will need to show a negative test result that is at most 48 hours old. In shops, customers have to wear full protective masks rather than just fabric face coverings.

Restaurants and hotels remain closed, and authorities say they won’t reopen this month. Border checks are in place, with new arrivals required to quarantine for 10 days.

Austria’s lockdown had been in place since Dec. 26. While the government has said that Austria needs to get as close as possible to an infection level of 50 new cases per 100,000 residents over seven days, the figure is still considerably higher — currently 104.

The government’s decision to go ahead with relaxing restrictions has drawn criticism, with the opposition leader arguing that reopening more than schools is a significant risk.

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