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Austria reintroduces face masks as coronavirus cases surge

People in Austria will be required to wear FFP2 face masks indoors again as COVID-19 cases are rising once more, the country’s Health Minister Johannes Rauch said.

“I don’t like doing that,” Rauch said during a press conference Friday evening, adding that the new rule will apply from Wednesday and that isolation rules will be revised too. He said details about the reviewed restrictions will come “over the weekend.”

Rauch conceded that easing restriction measures had come too early. Austria is the first country in the EU to reintroduce tougher constraints during the current wave.

The number of COVID-19 cases has been increasing in the country during the past two weeks.

“A decline in the current figures is not expected until the next few weeks,” the Austrian federal health ministry said in a statement, adding that “the tense situation will therefore last much longer than previously expected.”

Austria had lifted restrictions on March 5, making FFP2 face masks mandatory only in hospitals, public transport and essential shops. Rauch said he regretted confusing people with a “back and forth” implementation of the measures.

Germany decided Friday to lift most COVID-19 restrictions despite high contamination rates, and Italy is mulling a gradual easing of the measures in the coming weeks.

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