Austria shuts schools, most stores, to curb spread of virus

Austria is tightening its partial lockdown, including by closing non-essential stores and shifting schools to online teaching, amid galloping coronavirus infection rates in the Alpine nation

BERLIN -- Austria announced Saturday that it is tightening its partial lockdown, including by closing non-essential stores and shifting schools to online teaching, amid galloping coronavirus infection rates in the Alpine nation.

Starting Tuesday, the country of almost 9 million inhabitants will impose a limited curfew, banning people from leaving their homes except to go to work, get essential supplies, to exercise or to help people who need assistance. The partial lockdown is set to last until Dec. 6 .

“My urgent plea for the next four weeks is: meet nobody," Kurz said. "Every social contact is one too many.”

In addition to restaurants and leisure facilities, which have been shut for almost two weeks, authorities in Austria are ordering the closure of hairdressers, sports facilities and libraries.

Health Minister Rudolf Anschober warned that many medical workers are nearing exhaustion, saying the new infection-control measures are "the last chance to stop a collapse of the hospitals.”

A German doctors union and four medical associations said in a joint statement Saturday that unless the strain on personnel can be eased, “many intensive care units in particular will soon pass breaking point.”

Germany had more than 141 new cases of coronavirus per 100,000 inhabitants in the past week. Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to meet senior officials Monday to discuss whether existing measures imposed for the month of November are sufficient.

Police in the central city of Frankfurt used water cannons Saturday against both the participants of an anti-mask rally and counter-protesters.