Austria and Slovenia impose tight border restrictions with Italy over coronavirus

Austria and Slovenia announced Tuesday they would severely restrict travel from neighbouring Italy, the country worst hit by the new coronavirus after China.

Austria and Slovenia impose tight border restrictions with Italy over coronavirus
An empty platform at the railway station in Gries am Brenner at the Austrian-Italian border is pictured on February 23, 2020. AFP

Austria — which is also banning big gatherings — ordered a halt to flights and trains from Italy, while Slovenia said it would close its 232-kilometre (144-miles)-long border with the country.

“Nobody there (in Italy) should be travelling abroad, but since nobody is obeying that order, we decided to take measures,” Slovenia's outgoing prime minister Marjan Sarec told reporters. 

“It is not a hermetic closure… It is a necessary move if we want to contain the virus from spreading out of control,” he added.

Sarec said border controls would be put in place “as soon as possible”. Cargo transport will not be affected.

Also exempted from Austria's travel ban are cargo transport, people with a doctor's certificate, and returning Austrians who agree to a two-week quarantine, the Austrian government announced.

“The priority is to stop the spread of the virus,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told reporters earlier Tuesday.

Some train services between Italy and Austria were still running Tuesday but that was expected to change, a spokeswoman for Austrian rail operator OeBB told AFP.

By extension, train services from Venice in Italy to Munich in Germany via the Brenner pass border crossing with Austria will also be stopped, said a spokesperson for German rail operator Deutsche Bahn.

Amid other measures, Austria is also banning outdoor events with more than 500 people and indoor events with more than 100 people until the beginning of April.

In line with the ban, Vienna's state opera is cancelling all its concerts until March 31 in a “very painful” move, director Dominique Meyer said, adding the opera would need state aid for their lost revenue.

Universities and other higher education institutions have been ordered to halt classes from late Monday.

So far the Alpine EU country of more than eight million people has reported 182 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus and no deaths.

Slovenia has reported 32 coronavirus cases so far among its population of two million and no deaths.

The coronavirus outbreak has killed 631 people in Italy and forced the government to restrict movement for its 60 million citizens.

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Reader question: Will there be any strikes in Italy over Easter?

Transport strikes are a frequent occurrence in Italy, but will there be any walkouts over the Easter holidays? Here’s what we know.

Reader question: Will there be any strikes in Italy over Easter?

Question: “I’m travelling to Italy over the Easter break and I wondered if there will be any strikes?”

Transport strikes are hardly unusual in Italy, with at least two or three national demonstrations taking place each month and a number of regional or local walkouts being held each week. 

Strike action has been particularly frequent over the past couple of months as rail, airline and public transport services were all disrupted by union-backed demonstrations on multiple occasions, causing delays or, at times, even cancellations for travellers.

But will the trend continue over Easter, affecting the travel plans of residents as well as international visitors?

READ ALSO: Calendar: The transport strikes to expect in Italy this spring

There currently are no transport strikes planned between Thursday, April 6th and Thursday, April 13th, so, as things stand, travellers shouldn’t expect to face any strike-related disruption during the holidays. 

Bus station in Rome

There currently are no planned strikes in Italy between Thursday, April 6th and Thursday, April 13th. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

However, it bears pointing out that, under Italian law, all transport strikes scheduled to take place on the 11th day from the date when they were first communicated to the Transport Ministry, can be legally held.

So, for the sake of argument, unions could still plan a strike for Easter Sunday – which falls on April 9th this year – provided that they notified the Transport Ministry by the end of Thursday, March 30th.

That said, scenarios like the one above are highly unlikely given that nearly all transport strikes in Italy are announced at least a month before their scheduled date.

On a different note, while the Easter holidays shouldn’t be affected by any transport staff walkouts, services might run on a reduced schedule on Easter Sunday and Easter Monday as both days are national holidays in Italy. 

As a result, those planning on travelling on those dates are advised to check the orari festivi (holiday schedules) of the relevant transport providers.

You can keep up to date with the latest strike news from Italy HERE.