Tests needed to leave Austria’s variant-hit Tyrol
Austria said Tuesday that people leaving the mountainous Tyrol region would need a negative coronavirus test result from Friday, as worries grow over the presence there of the South African variant.
ustria said Tuesday that people leaving the mountainous Tyrol region would need a negative coronavirus test result from Friday, as worries grow over the presence there of the South African variant.
“The outbreak of the South African variant in Tyrol is the biggest currently known of in the European Union,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told a press conference.
There have been 293 confirmed cases of the highly transmissible variant in the region, with more than 100 further suspected cases, he said.
The majority of the cases are in the district of Schwaz, where a mass testing programme will now be carried out.
The requirement for a negative test result not older than 48 hours old to leave Tyrol will be in force for 10 days, Kurz said.
“We must do all we can to prevent or at least slow down the spread of the variant,” he said.
Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said fines of up to 1,450 euros ($1,750) could be levied on those not complying with the test requirement.
Travel from East Tyrol, which is not contiguous with the rest of the region, is exempt from the test requirement.
Kurz said the variant presented an “enormous challenge” because currently available vaccines are less effective against it.
Kurz’s government, and regional authorities in Tyrol, have come under criticism for not reacting swiftly enough to the spread of the South African variant.
“The debate in recent days has been very emotional, perhaps too emotional at times,” Kurz said.
He also sought to defend Tyrol’s regional government, which is dominated by his own People’s Party (OeVP).
“No one is to blame for the fact that there are mutations and no one can choose which mutations they have to confront,” Kurz said.
Tyrol has also come under the spotlight after reports emerged in recent weeks of scores of foreign skiers using loopholes in Austria’s coronavirus rules to travel to the country’s renowned ski resorts, many of them in Tyrol.
ustria’s government allowed ski lifts to reopen just before Christmas, maintaining that outdoor sports posed little transmission risk.
ustria eased its third coronavirus lockdown on Monday, with schools, shops and museums reopening, albeit with strengthened mask and testing requirements.
The steps towards easing the lockdown came even though Austria’s daily infection rate has remained stubbornly around the 1,000 mark in recent days.
The nation of 8.8 million people has had 426,093 confirmed cases, of whom 8,071 have died.