On Friday, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) did not rule out the opening of the catering trade in March, but did not promise it either.
It is dependent on the infection process. Previously, the government had only announced further easing steps for “around Easter” at the earliest on Tuesday. Since then, the Chamber of Commerce has been pressing for earlier easing despite the increasing number of corona infections. Easter Sunday is April 4th this year.
As already announced, the government wants to consult with experts and the federal states on opening steps on March 1st and “hopefully implement them in March”, as Kurz said on Friday after consultations with industry representatives from the catering and tourism sectors. However, the decisions are dependent on the further infection process, as the Chancellor restricted. “If these rise sharply, openings make no sense,” says Kurz.
“Maybe earlier opening”
A “perhaps earlier opening” has moved into the realm of possibility because the hosts are no longer against the entry test. “The tide has turned,” said Kurz, all industry representatives are now in favor of the system of entry tests, which allows more freedom in the pandemic. The concept of the tests worked well for hairdressers and other body-hugging service providers.
Köstinger: “Safe Industry”
According to a broadcast by the Federal Chancellery, the catering security concepts will be included in the deliberations on March 1st. Tourism Minister Elisabeth Köstinger (ÖVP) stated that the summit was part of a “restart process so that we are ready on day X”. Gastronomy and tourism would be among the safest industries if they were allowed to reopen. “I’m on the side of the industry,” assured Köstinger. Rudolf Anschober’s (Greens) Ministry of Health, which is largely responsible for fighting the pandemic, did not take part in the meeting on Friday.
After the summit meeting with Kurz and Köstinger, the President of the Chamber of Commerce, Harald Mahrer, said he had good hopes for opening steps before Easter and was counting on the deliberations on March 1st. Mahrer refused to simply open the guest gardens, as this would not make economic sense. He said meeting in a restaurant after a corona test would be safer than the current illegal meetings at home. “Our branches have clearly put their security concepts on the table again. All branches are committed to admission tests, they are the key to further opening steps in March.”
Hoteliers also want to unlock
The hotels also hope to be able to open at the same time as the inns. For the Austrian Hotel Association (ÖHV), the goal is a safe opening with a test strategy, which must be possible promptly, said ÖHV spokesman Martin Stanits at the APA. Safe opening is possible, as last summer showed. Today we know a lot more. He referred to larger distances, FFP2 masks and testing. The ÖHV has proposed the construction of test roads in larger hotels in rural regions. Guests, employees and the local population could then be tested there. “Those who have tested negative can recover or go about their work while observing hygiene concepts, distance rules and, if necessary, maximum utilization limits,” said ÖHV President Michaela Reitterer according to the press release.
The hotel spokeswoman in the Chamber of Commerce, Susanne Kraus-Winkler, said she was not giving up on Easter. You want a leap of faith to prove that the hygiene concepts work. In the Ö1-Mittagsjournal, however, she admitted that “the only thing we have been granted is that you will definitely look at the development of the numbers again until March 1st and that you want to start a process.” But one would have liked to hear, “We are allowed to open lots of sounds”, says Kraus-Winkler. “Nonetheless, as usual, we are now waiting bit by bit again for about ten days.”
Advance from Vienna
In Vienna, among other places, the coffee house operators, restaurateurs and hoteliers jointly urged to be allowed to unlock under similar framework conditions as the body-oriented service providers. Limitations of 20 square meters per guest, as in retail, are not feasible, as operating in smaller restaurants would not be profitable, said the Viennese catering chairman Peter Dobcak in the run-up to the meeting. “We have mastered the registration requirement and will also manage the test controls,” said Dobcak.
NEOS demand a clear opening plan
On the political side, the NEOS once again criticized the government’s communication strategy. “If the government says something different every day, it’s no wonder when everyone is in despair,” said the pink economics spokesman Josef Schellhorn. He calls for a clear opening plan for March 1st. The FPÖ stated that Kurz had only invited the “gastro-high society”. “Now all that is missing is that Kurz-Intimus Martin Ho is promoted to chief gastro advisor in the Chancellery,” said Viennese FPÖ boss Dominik Nepp.