Austria Declares Wearing Masks Mandatory in Supermarkets

In a May 6, 2009 file photo a store attendantholds an N-95 mask over a box of disposable surgical masks in Manila, Philippines. Health workers caring for patients who have or may have swine flu should wear a special type of mask called an N95 respirator, not looser-fitting surgical masks, …
AP Photo/ Pat Roque/file

Austria has introduced measures to halt the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus, including making it mandatory to wear masks in supermarkets.

The government, led by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, announced the measures this week stating that protective masks would be handed out to the public at the entrances of supermarkets and must be worn while shopping.

Chancellor Kurz stated that masks were still no substitute for keeping a safe distance from others and, according to newspaper Kronen Zeitung, stated: “I am fully aware that masks are something foreign to our culture.”

Minister of Health Rudolf Anschober, a member of the Green Party, added that the masks would only be effective for a period of about four hours and that they would help make sure the capacity of hospitals was not overwhelmed.

The government has also ordered a large part of the tourism sector to shut down, with a ban on overnight stays in hotels and guest houses.

Kurz added that Austria’s hospitals could become overwhelmed within the next two weeks with just 1,071 intensive care beds still available across the country and 908 ventilators.

“How long the overload lasts, especially in intensive care medicine, depends on all of us. It is already clear that many people will die from this disease. But we have to do our utmost to ensure that no more people die than have to die,” Kurz said.

Vice-Chancellor Werner Kogler, leader of the Green Party, added that he saw the current situation as a “calm before the storm” and said: “If we listen to the experts, I am in favour of orienting ourselves to those who draw the more dramatic scenarios.”

Despite sharing a border with Italy, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe, Austria has managed to keep cases at just over 9,000 as of Monday with 108 deaths.

Italy, by contrast, continues to see growth in cases and deaths, with over 100,000 confirmed cases and 11,591 deaths as of Monday.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.