Austria limits travel from Romania, Bulgaria over virus

VIENNA (AFP) – Austria’s government announced yesterday it was introducing travel restrictions for fellow European Union (EU) members Romania and Bulgaria after a spike in coronavirus cases in both countries.

Speaking after a Cabinet meeting, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said he was issuing an “urgent appeal” to Austrians not to travel to those countries.

Returning travellers would have to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine or provide a recent negative test, he added.

Yesterday’s restrictions will also apply to Moldova.

“We have seen that there are more and more imported coronavirus cases from these countries,” Kurz said.

In recent weeks there had been around 170 imported cases recorded in Austria, most of them having originated in the Balkans, said Kurz. Already last week Austria issued travel warnings for several other Balkan states, including Serbia and Montenegro, despite an EU recommendation to lift travel restrictions.

Checks along Austria’s borders with Slovenia and Hungary will also be doubled, targetting travellers coming from the Balkans.

Romania yesterday reported 555 new infections, the biggest one-day increase yet, which Emergency Department Official Raed Arafat blamed on people not respecting the rules.

“We’ve seen an increase in the number of campaigns denying that the virus is real,” Arafat told the Digi24 TV station.

In Bulgaria, the number of weekly cases doubled from between 500 and 550 in mid-June to more than 1,100 over the past week.

Austria has been spared the worst of the pandemic, with 18,444 cases and 706 deaths.