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Austria, France ease coronavirus lockdowns

May 19, 2021

After a shutdown lasting several months, France and Austria are reopening bars, restaurants and tourism sites. Countries across Asia, meanwhile, are tightening restrictions amid a virus surge. Follow DW for the latest.

Tables and chairs on a restaurant terrace in Lille, northern France
French bars and restaurants with outdoor seatings can allow customers up to 50% capacityImage: Michel Spingler/AP Photo/picture alliance

Austria relaxed coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday, allowing restaurants, hotels and theaters to reopen their doors for the first time in more than five months.

"The light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter," Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said.

Quarantine will also no longer be required for many foreign visitors to Austria starting on Wednesday, said Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein.

Visitors, however, must provide a health certificate showing they aren't infected with the coronavirus.

"The infection numbers are going down in many countries, which is why we can announce these entry relaxations in parallel to our steps to open up this country," Mückstein said.

A man measures the distance between two tables with a tape measure
People visiting restaurants and bars must still abide by France's social distancing rulesImage: Photo Franck Dubray/MAXPPP/dpa/picture alliance

France reopened its terraces, albeit limited to 50% of their capacitiy and to six people per table. Restaurants and cafes will have to wait until June 9 to allow customers indoors.

Cinemas, theaters and museums in France can again welcome visitors, who must still wear masks and maintain physical distance. 

France's 7 p.m. nightly curfew will be delayed by two hours — so running from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Disneyland Paris has said it would reopen on June 17.

France's easing of restrictions come ahead of a full-scale unlocking of activities planned on June 30.

 Germany's confirmed number of coronavirus cases increased by 11,040 to 3,614,095, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed. That's almost 4,000 fewer cases than the same time last week. The reported death toll rose by 284 to 86,665.

How and when can lockdowns be lifted?


Countries throughout Asia have tightened restrictions following several COVID-19 outbreaks. 

Coronavirus success story Taiwan has reported more than 1,000 cases since last week and put more than 600,000 people in two-week medical isolation. 

Taiwan raised its COVID-19 alert level for the whole island on Wednesday as it logged another 267 new cases. The capital Taipei is already under a higher alert level, with restrictions on gatherings and the closure of some nonessential shops and entertainment venues.

The latest surge is believed to be driven by the more easily transmissible coronavirus variant first identified in the United Kingdom, also referred to as the British variant. 

India has set another record for daily COVID-19 fatalities, even as infections declined. The Health Ministry on Wednesday reported 4,529 deaths in the last 24 hours, driving the overall death toll to 283,248.

The South Asian country also confirmed 267,334 new infections, as daily cases dropped below 300,000 for the third consecutive day. 

Mongolia has seen its death toll jump from 15 to 233.

Hong Kong and Singapore have postponed a quarantine-free travel bubble for a second time after an outbreak in Singapore of unknown origin.

China has recorded new cases apparently tied to contact with people arriving from abroad.

Japan's Health Ministry is looking into allowing pharmacists to administer coronavirus vaccines to accelerate its vaccination drive, a government spokesman has said. The announcement comes as calls grow for the Olympics to be canceled. 

With just 65 days to go before the start of the Tokyo Olympics, less than 30% of medics in Japan's major cities have been vaccinated against COVID-19, the country's Nikkei newspaper reported.

Japanese figures released this week showed that three months into the country's COVID-19 vaccination push, less than 40% of its medical workers are fully vaccinated.

mvb/nm (Reuters, AP, AFP)