A special meeting of the Austrian National Council on the conclusion of the COVID-19 law and the restriction of the rights and freedoms of citizens to save society from a pandemic.
Cultural life in Austria, by decree of the government, stopped at least until the end of March and, in some cases, until mid-April (Ostern). All performances, shows, conferences and other events with the participation of more than 100 people were canceled on Tuesday March 10th because of the danger of the virus. Situation shocked Vienna, Graz, Linz, Salzburg, Sankt Pölten, Innsbruck, Klagenfurt, Bregenz, almost all the federal states, cities and towns where events were planned. According to the experience of Switzerland, it was hoped that the restrictions would apply only to events involving more than a thousand people, but the government took more extreme measures of restrictions. All concerts of classical music, jazz and pop concerts are affected.
Museums and cinemas, which also noted the decline of the visitors, closed their work in full or in part. Most organizers rescheduled their events for the season of 2021, in some cases the entrance fee will be returned to spectators. In any case, the organizers suffer huge losses. In the small halls of Austria until Thursday, March 12th, cultural life was still taking place, but with many restrictions, since the creative team and maintenance staff should also be included in the calculation of the people present.
The same situation developed in tourism and in the hotel business. In February there was a recession and in March a complete stop due to a lack of guests.
The statement of the government on Friday March 13th on a reduction in social contacts to a minimum significantly complicated the situation. Restaurants and canteens of all categories should shorten their work until 15:00. But already on Saturday there was a complete ban on any social contacts between people and the article in the constitution on the right to assembly “Versammlungsfreiheit” was temporarily canceled. Closed all kindergartens, schools and universities, almost all specialized sales centers, fashion boutiques, except for grocery stores, pet stores and pharmacies. All sports games are also prohibited and playgrounds are closed.
Such drastic measures are completely justified by the situation and are dictated by the experience of European neighbors, primarily Italy and Spain. Unfortunately, the situation in these countries has moved from the critical to the dramatic levels. In these countries, the growth of diseases and deaths has gone out of control, the health systems are completely unable to cope with the crisis. First of all, there are not enough hospital beds, disinfectants and medicines, as well as medical personnel. In order to avoid such a development, Austria introduced border and internal controls. The police were mobilized as well as the people’s militia and the army. The deferrals for draftees were canceled. For violation of public order, such as meetings in groups of more than 5 people, a fine of up to 2,180 euros is prescribed. Being in prohibited places, such as playgrounds (Platzverbot) – up to 3.600 euros.
According to Chancellor Kurz, starting from Monday, March 16th, all firms and enterprises in Austria switch to a minimum production mode. Where possible, the Teleworking + Delivery model is used. All face-to-face contacts between employees and customers are prohibited. The decline in traffic will allow more or less unhindered delivery of all goods to consumers.
The Cabinet of Ministers promised 4 billion euros to help the economy and especially small enterprises and firms with one legal entity (Einzelunternehmen). In particular, at the request of the government, despite the decline in consumer demand and the loss of customers, enterprises were advised not to lay off workers, but to transfer them to part-time employment. All the resources of the AMS have been activated, but already on Friday a 3-fold increase in the unemployed in some lands was noted.
It was decided to cover the expenses of enterprises on doing business with new loans issued without bureaucratic delays within 2-3 days. This decision will allow workers to pay all expenses for food, an apartment and other expenses and at the same time in the foreseeable future to regain their jobs and return to their previous level of consumption. In addition, the government announced a temporary tax slowdown. For company owners, fines of up to 30,000 euros are also provided for allowing people to enter the production area or office without special permission.
According to Chancellor Kurz, the most unacceptable thing right now is to underestimate everything that happens. In the press and social networks, there is often a skeptical opinion that young people are not affected and the disease can be transferred without noticing. In fact, during the incubation period of the virus, people with a good immune system are also carriers and, accordingly, a danger to other people. A special risk group includes elderly people, people with reduced immunity and complications due to other diseases, as well as those who, despite the pandemic, must work in direct contact with other people – grocery store employees, pharmacists, soldiers, police officers, volunteers, civil servants, and especially doctors and medical personnel.
For all questions related to coronavirus in Austria, you can contact the hotline 0800 555 621.