Austria Urges Homecoming as Rest of the World Deemed Unsafe

(Bloomberg) --

Austria urged its traveling citizens to come back home and stay there, declaring the rest of the world unsafe because of the fallout of the coronavirus outbreak.

For the first time ever, the Alpine country issued a travel warning for the entire world. The unprecedented move was prompted by sudden and unexpected restrictions -- including a U.S. ban on travel from Europe -- as governments around the world step up efforts to contain the pandemic.

That puts Austrians at risk of getting stranded abroad, according to the country’s foreign ministry.

“We’re telling Austrians to strongly reconsider trips, cancel those that aren’t absolutely necessary and, if possible, abort trips and return home,” Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg told Austrian radio on Friday. “The situation due to the coronavirus is unpredictable. We don’t know how transport systems look like as the situation took dramatic turns in some countries over the last few days.”

Read more: Travelers Rush for Last Flights From Europe Before Trump Ban

Domestically, the country stepped up lockdown measures in an effort to “shut down social life to a minimum,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Friday.

The country is closing shops except groceries, pharmacies, banks, and drugstores from Monday and is ordering restaurants and bars to close at 3 p.m. Two internationally popular ski resorts -- the Ischgl region and St. Anton -- are put under quarantine. Air traffic with Spain, Switzerland and France will stop from Tuesday.

Austria had previously moved to ban indoor events with more than 100 people and will start closing schools on Monday.

After closing the passage for travelers from Italy earlier this week, Austria will start border checks with Switzerland and Liechtenstein, Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said.

About 150,000 Austrians are currently traveling for leisure or business, according to the foreign ministry, which organized a charter flight to evacuate about 150 people from Italy on Friday.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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