Vienna and two other provinces in eastern Austria will close non-essential shops for several days over Easter in a bid to ease the growing strain on intensive care wards from rising coronavirus infections, Austrian media reported on Wednesday.
The three provinces - Vienna and the province surrounding it, Lower Austria, as well as Burgenland, which borders Hungary - have been working on tighter restrictions with the Health Ministry after the conservative-led government decided on Monday the rest of the country's curbs would remain unchanged.
Of Austria's nine provinces, those three are among the hardest-hit and have high levels of the more contagious British variant of the coronavirus, which has been causing severe cases faster and often required longer hospital stays.
Health minister Rudolf Anschober has spoken of a 'looming collapse' in eastern Austria's intensive-care wards.
Last month Austria loosened its third coronavirus lockdown, allowing non-essential shops to reopen. The three provinces will close them again from Thursday April 1 until the following Tuesday, news agency APA said. In a normal year virtually all shops are closed on Easter Sunday and Monday.
Schools' Easter holidays in those provinces will also be extended from one week to two or switch to distance learning for the second week, several media reported.
Face masks, which are already required on public transport and in shops, will be required in more indoor areas, those media added, saying an announcement was expected later on Wednesday.
The Health Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
The reported measures are less severe than plans announced in neighbouring Germany on Tuesday for even essential shops to close over Easter and the population to be urged to stay at home because of the threat posed by the British variant.