By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Austria will further loosen its precautionary lockdown measures to allow churches to reopen in the country as of 15 May.
The Secretary-General of the Austrian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Fr. Peter Schipka confirmed the news, following an announcement by Austrian Prime Minister, Sebastian Kurz.
The Prime Minister said Tuesday that restaurants, churches and some schools can reopen from the middle of next month.
Austria’s Bishops have already begun working on plans to organize the reopening. They have entered into talks with the government, even though specific details are still to be defined.
Prime Minister Kurz specified that reopening will be a “step-by-step” process which will involve increasing the number of coronavirus tests in the country. He also insisted on the importance of full compliance with the prescribed rules for public safety. “First and foremost, safe distance,” he said.
Responding to the news, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the President of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference, tweeted on Tuesday: “We will soon be able to celebrate the Eucharist together with great joy and responsibility.”
Coronavirus in Austria
Austria was one of the first European countries to adopt lockdown measures.
After its first two confirmed Covid-19 cases in February, Austrians were asked to stay home from 16 March.
As of Wednesday, the country has reported 14,925 confirmed cases, with 510 deaths and 11,328 recovered patients.
Austrian Government officials have waived their stipends for one month and sub-secretaries have donated their salaries to charity to support efforts against the spread of Covid-19.
On 23 April, the Minister for Integration, Susanne Raab, will share further details of Austria’s plans for resuming public services in consultation with religious communities.