The Austrian armed forces have deployed over 900 personnel to help supermarkets across the country keep products on shelves during the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak.
Colonel Michael Bauer, the spokesman for the Austrian defence ministry, said that 916 personnel had been deployed, most of them working in supermarket warehouses to ensure products were getting to areas where panic buyers had cleared local shops of goods.
Most of those deployed are civil servants who work for the armed forces, with a minority of the personnel being actual professional soldiers, Austrian tabloid Kronen Zeitung reports.
According to Colonel Bauer, the first request for help came last Friday and the first army personnel were deployed the next day. Now, army members have been deployed to several supermarket chains such as Spar, Lidl, and Hofer.
“We also have many requests from many other industries,” Bauer said but added: “We couldn’t fulfil them. We had to reject them all.” Industries that requested army help include freight companies and pharmacies.
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The move to deploy members of the armed forces comes as Austria has gone into lockdown, with the government of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz recently banning gatherings of five or more people.
Supermarkets and grocers are some of the few businesses to remain open during the coronavirus outbreak in Austria, as many others such as bars and restaurants have been forced to close early or entirely.
Austria has seen over 1,800 confirmed cases of the Chinese coronavirus according to Austrian Health Ministry statistics released on Thursday which stated that 13,724 tests had been carried out.
Neighbouring Germany has also seen a recent surge in confirmed cases, with Johns Hopkins University claiming that the country had over 10,000 cases on Wednesday.
Following the release of the statistics, Chancellor Angela Merkel made her first-ever unscheduled address to the German people, stating that the coronavirus was the biggest challenge for the country since World War Two.