Coronavirus: Austria Declares State of Emergency

  • "Austrians are being summoned to isolate themselves," Chancellor Sebastian Kurz's office said in a statement.
  • From now on, Austrians can leave their homes only in three cases: to get to work, buy food and help those who need it.
  • The authorities in many other countries have taken similar measures during the spread of the coronavirus.

Austria’s Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, announced major restrictions on movement Sunday, in order to combat the spread of coronavirus. Residents are limited in mobility, and air traffic with several countries— including Britain, the Netherlands, Russia, and Ukraine— is restricted.

Sebastian Kurz is the chancellor of Austria since January 2020, previously holding this position from December 2017 to May 2019. During most of his incumbency, Kurz was the youngest head of government in the world.

“Austrians are being summoned to isolate themselves,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s office said in a statement. “That means only making social contact with the people with whom they live.” In Austria, from Monday, March 16, serious restrictions will begin to apply, the purpose of which is to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Chancellor Kurtz also declared a state of emergency due to the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic. He called the situation in the federal republic the most serious challenge since the Second World War. From now on, according to Kurtz, the inhabitants of Austria can leave their homes only in three cases: to get to work, buy food and help those who need it. There is no talk of curfews yet. These measures will be implemented within the framework of a special law, which the country’s parliament will adopt on Sunday.

The country has also imposed a ban on staying at sports and playgrounds. Starting Tuesday, restaurants will be closed, opening hours of which have already been limited for several days. Vice-Chancellor and Minister of Sport Werner Kogler said sports clubs should immediately stop training children and adolescents, under the threat of long-term license revocation.

Austria Cancels Flights with Russia and Ukraine

Starting Monday, all enterprises that are not essential for everyday life will also be closed in the country. Food can still be bought in supermarkets and through delivery services, said Chancellor Kurtz. He also announced further travel restrictions and tougher flight bans. In particular, air traffic with the UK, the Netherlands, Ukraine, and Russia was stopped.

“We understand that these are strict limitations. But they are necessary to protect the health of the Austrian population, to defeat the number of COVID-19 infections and especially to protect the older generation in our country,” Kurz wrote on Twitter.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), also known as 2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease (2019-nCoV ARD), and novel coronavirus pneumonia (NCP) is a viral respiratory disease caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). It was first detected during the 2019–20 Wuhan coronavirus outbreak.

Austria previously quarantined the Paznaun region, where the Ischgl and Galtür ski resorts are located, as well as St. Anton in Tyrol, and Heiligenblut in Carinthia. It was there that the maximum number of coronavirus infections was recorded. The last foreign tourists should leave St. Anton on Sunday, said the mayor, Helmut Müll.

By March 15, at least 655 cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection were recorded in the country, one person has died so far.

Other Countries Take Similar Measures

The authorities in many other countries have taken similar measures during the spread of the coronavirus. In particular, the Saudi authorities, in which 86 people were infected, also canceled all international flights to this country for two weeks on March 14. Colombia closed the border with Venezuela, and from March 16, will not allow citizens who have previously visited Europe or Asia into the country.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also announced new measures against the spread of coronavirus. From March 15, all those arriving in the country will be placed under 14-day quarantine. The restriction does not apply only to travelers coming to New Zealand from the Pacific Islands. In addition, until June 30, New Zealand ports will not accept cruise ships. In New Zealand, there are six officially confirmed COVID-19 diseases.

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Doris Mkwaya

I am a journalist, with more than 12 years of experience as a reporter, author, editor, and journalism lecturer." I've worked as a reporter, editor and journalism lecturer, and am very enthusiastic about bringing what I've learned to this site.  

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