Austria tightens border controls to slow Covid spread

Austria said on Sunday it was tightening border controls to all neighbouring countries, saying non-essential travel should be prevented during the pandemic.

The move to tighten border controls comes as the country is gearing up to cautiously loosen some restrictions this coming week, including letting non-essential shops and schools reopen.

«The border controls are meant to break the chain of infection which through new virus mutations has grown more dangerous,» Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said in a statement.

«During the pandemic, travel should be kept to an absolute minimum.»

The interior ministry said that it had been in contact with German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer over the new border measures and that talks with ministers in other countries were to follow.

Austria shares borders with Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Italy, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia.

Austria reported 1,317 new infections on Sunday, bringing the total to 420,644 since the outset of the pandemic.

Twenty-two people died, raising the country’s total Covid-19 fatalities to 7,906, according to official figures.

Austria in Talks to Buy 1M Sputnik V Doses

Austria said on Tuesday it was negotiating with Russia over the possible purchase of 1 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine — which has yet to be approved by EU regulators.

Though EU member Hungary is already administering Sputnik V and a total of 57 countries have authorized its use, according to the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), it is still under review by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

The office of Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told AFP on Tuesday that the talks had started on Feb. 26 over the delivery of 300,000 doses in April, 500,000 in May and 200,000 in early June 2021, but added that no agreement had been made.

Earlier this month, Kurz and five other central and eastern EU leaders urged Brussels to find a «correction mechanism» to fix what they called the unfair distribution of coronavirus vaccines within the bloc.

«If Austria receives an additional 1 million vaccine doses, we will be able to return to normality faster and could save many lives as well as jobs,» Kurz said.

«There should be no geopolitical blinkers when it comes to the vaccine. The only thing that should matter is whether the vaccine is effective and safe, and not where it comes from.»

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