The government says it is extending the country’s lockdown before Feb. 7 in a drive to push still-high disease figures as officials worry about the possible Effect of new coronavirus variations

The Austrian government is extending the nation’s lockdown before Feb. 7 in a drive to push down still-high disease figures as officials fret about the potential effect of new coronavirus variations.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz stated Sunday that some steps will also be tightened as a result of the more infectious variations that were initially observed in Britain and South Africa. He said individuals will then be asked to stay 2 meters (61/2 feet) apart rather than 1 meter.

Starting on Jan. 25, they’ll also be required to wear full protective masks on public transport and in stores, rather than simply fabric sheets. People on low incomes will get such masks Health Minister Rudolf Anschober explained.

Kurz said Austria is eager to avoid a situation such as that in Britain and Ireland, where diseases have grown sharply and quickly as new variants take hold. So far, Austria has over 150 suspected ailments together with the British version, Anschober said.

Kurz stated Austria needs to get as close as possible to, and rather below, an infection level of 50 new cases per 100,000 residents over seven days. The figure now stands at 131.

“Our aim is to approach this figure… by Feb. 8 and start the first steps toward opening on Feb. 8,” together with schools, nonessential stores, museums and services such as hairdressers reopening, Kurz told a news conference at Vienna.

However, Kurz made apparent that resorts and restaurants will have to wait more.

“We have to assume now, at least in February, it will not be possible to start out catering and tourism,” he said, adding that a decision will be made in mid-February.

Austria, a nation of 8.9 million, has confirmed nearly 390,000 cases and seen 6,964 deaths associated with COVID-19.