A sense of normalcy was regained in France and Austria on Wednesday as the two countries took big steps to turn the page on the pandemic by rolling back a slew of COVID-19 restrictions.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz described his country’s moves as the starting point for “our fight back to normal”.
“Starting from May 19, we must rediscover our French way of life”, French President Emmanuel Macron, who locked down the country in October as a second wave of cases grew, said recently of the changes.
France’s famed restaurant terraces and outdoor cafes could open again with capacity restrictions in place.
Non-essential shops, cultural venues and cinemas can also now welcome a limited number of patrons.
A greater freedom of movement was also allowed with France’s Coronavirus evening curfew now starting by 9 pm instead of 7 pm.
Austria’s lockdown has been tightened and loosened at various points over the past six months, but starting from Wednesday, bars and hotels are allowed to reopen a move that should help jump-start the country’s key tourism sector.
Theatres, cinemas, museums and gyms will also be able to receive visitors again.
Many non-essential shops and services had been open since February.
For many of the venues reopening, however, patrons must provide evidence they have been vaccinated, tested negative or recovered from the virus.
There are also still capacity restrictions and limits to the number of people who can gather.
“The curve of those infected with Coronavirus points steeply downwards, the curve of those who have been vaccinated steeply upwards,’’ Kurz said about why Austria was able to ease up.