COVID-19 represented a test of strength for the new partnership—one it has passed with flying colors. Like most countries, Austria’s gross domestic product will dip this year but, said UniCredit Bank Austria Chief Economist Stefan Bruckbauer, “The catch-up process with economic growth of around 8 percent is expected in 2021.” In addition, Kurz told his parliament, many nations have copied the government’s approach to containing coronavirus, while “during the resumption of activities, other countries like, for example, Germany are adopting our plan step-by-step. That shows, in my opinion, that the measures we took were right.”
These included an extensive lockdown that was imposed in March before most other European governments had reacted. This allowed only essential travel from home and closed schools, shops, restaurants, hotels, tourist attractions and Austria’s fabulous ski resorts, among other things. The regional hub for many sectors also brought in strict border controls with six of its eight neighbors. This lockdown’s gradual relaxation started with shops on 14 April, travel restrictions within Austria were removed on 1 May, restaurants and schools will open mid-month and the tourism sector should be back in action on 29 May. To help prevent the virus interrupting this process, facemasks are currently mandatory in many places and continued teleworking is highly encouraged.
The World Health Organization ranks Austria’s health system as the ninth-best worldwide. Even so, the government bolstered it, with field hospitals opening quickly. Most of these beds have not been needed due to other initiatives, with an important one being the early establishment of a well-promoted hotline for those concerned they have contracted coronavirus. Trained experts assess symptoms and dispatch mobile testing units if necessary, reducing COVID-19’s spread by limiting visits to hospitals.