VIENNA (AP) — Austria plans to ease coronavirus restrictions in February after the country’s national vaccination mandate, the first of its kind in Europe, took effect on Tuesday.
From February 5, restaurants will be allowed to remain open until midnight, instead of 10 p.m., Chancellor Karl Nehammer told a press conference on Saturday.
In addition, rules effectively barring unvaccinated people from stores and restaurants will be phased out. From February 12, proof of vaccination or recovery will no longer be required to enter stores. A week later, on February 19, entry to restaurants will be allowed for anyone who can prove vaccination, recovery or a negative coronavirus test.
Nehammer also said last week that lockdown restrictions for vaccinated people, which have been in place since November, will end on Monday.
Saturday’s announcement comes despite the record number of new infections in recent days, fueled by the omicron variant. On Friday, Austria reported 34,748 new cases. On Thursday, the Alpine nation’s 7-day rate of infections stood at 2,381.2 per 100,000 people, about 10 times higher than the rate in early January.
Still, Nehammer said the low rate of patients now hospitalized with the virus means further steps towards normality are possible. Austrian authorities expect the omicron wave to peak in the first week of February.
Austria has recorded more than 14,000 virus deaths during the pandemic.