Vienna plans to extend Easter lockdown until following weekend: minister
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FILE PHOTO: Tables and chairs are seen next to a closed restaurant as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown continues in Vienna, Austria March 22, 2021. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
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VIENNA (Reuters) - Vienna plans to extend an Easter coronavirus lockdown by five days until the following Sunday, Austria's health minister said on Monday, while two nearby provinces introducing the same restrictions are still undecided on prolonging them.
The eastern provinces of Lower Austria, which surrounds Vienna, Burgenland, which borders Hungary, and the capital itself last week announced a lockdown from Thursday, April 1 to Tuesday, April 6, closing non-essential shops and replacing a nighttime curfew with all-day restrictions on movement.
The three provinces have high levels of the British variant of the coronavirus, which has been causing severe illness faster and in more of those infected. With national infections rising, eastern hospitals are nearing their intensive-care capacity.
Scientific experts, however, say a lockdown of less than a week will do little to relieve the pressure on hospitals.
"I am pleased that Mayor Michael Ludwig and the City of Vienna have decided that they want to implement an extension of the Easter quiet period until April 11," Health Minister Rudolf Anschober said in a statement after a video conference with the three provinces' governors.
Vienna is the only city to also be one of Austria's nine provinces, and the mayor is also its governor. Lockdown decisions now usually involve the national government and the influential governors.
"Because of the alarming situation, further provinces will have to follow the City of Vienna on this path," Anschober added without saying which provinces.
Separately, people leaving the western province of Tyrol will have to show a recent negative coronavirus test result as of Wednesday because of more than 200 cases there are of a mutation of the British variant known as E484K, which is believed to weaken the body's immune response to the virus.
(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Marguerita Choy)
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