Amid rising cases, Austria hastily reimposed an indoor mask mandate.

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Amid rising cases, Austria hastily reimposed an indoor mask mandate.

Austria will reintroduce an indoor mask mandate, the health minister, Johannes Rauch, announced on Friday, following a trend among European countries to lift coronavirus precautions despite rising cases.

It was only now necessary to retaliate, Mr Rauch told a news conference on Friday, just weeks after Austria lifted its mask mandate in most indoor venues.

Earlier this month, Austrian officials announced that the country’s general vaccine mandate would be temporarily suspended. It recently took official effect, but enforcement had not begun. According to Our World in data, about 74 percent of Austrians are fully vaccinated.

But Mr Rauch said experts have now corrected forecasts of the virus’ trajectory and officials were concerned about the availability of staff and beds in hospitals and retirement and nursing homes.

Starting Wednesday, FFP2 masks (Europe’s equivalent of the US N95) will again be needed in indoor spaces, and the government will soon introduce isolation rules for those infected, the Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection said in a statement. will modify. on Friday.

A highly permeable Omicron subvariant, BA.2, is contributing to new surges across Europe this month. Although deaths in the region continue to decline, the number of COVID patients in hospitals has increased in some European countries, such as the United Kingdom, Ireland and Austria, according to the statistics in Our World.

Austria has seen a 54 percent increase in new cases in the past two weeks, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

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But European countries are still pushing to reopen. Last month, Denmark lifted all of its restrictions, including a masking mandate in indoor spaces and on public transport. The British government has ended all remaining legal coronavirus restrictions in England, including the legal requirement to isolate infected people. On Thursday, Italy announced it would progressively remove its vaccination and health pass requirements.

But as countries welcomed the end of many precautions, Austria’s announcement was a concerning sign that momentum in that direction may be premature. Mr Rauch said the earlier policy changes were based on the prediction that by now cases would be low.

“It has not come true. It has changed, and has changed significantly,” he said.

Christopher F. schuetz Contributed to reporting.

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