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Austria readies extra 1 billion euro aid for lockdown-hit business

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Vienna

ZURICH (Reuters) - Austria expects to pay out an extra nearly 1 billion euros ($1.23 billion) in support for companies hit by a new lockdown that the government imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Finance Minister Gernot Bluemel said on Saturday.

Austria will go into its third lockdown after Christmas and lift it earlier for people who get tested, the government said on Friday. The new lockdown comes 11 days after a second lockdown ended.

Bluemel said companies in November and December had made more than 120,000 requests worth 2.2 billion euros in compensation for revenue lost as a result of the clampdown, of which around 1.8 billion euros had already been paid out.

The scheme will be extended until the end of the year at a cost of up to 300 million euros in direct aid. The government is also working on a package for companies indirectly hit.

"In sum we expect costs of nearly 1 billion euros," he told a news conference.

Separate programmes to subsidise fixed costs and help cover losses run until the pandemic ends.

The new lockdown will start on Dec. 26. Shops, restaurants, theatres, museums and schools will reopen the week of Jan. 18.

Austria will, however, let ski resorts open their lifts despite the lockdown, though Austria's provinces will also have their say. Face masks must be worn inside lifts.

Austria is introducing a quarantine requirement over the holiday season for almost all of Europe that appears to at least partly aim at deterring visits by skiers from neighbouring countries.

The army said on Saturday it was deploying more soldiers to help police enforce controls at the borders with Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia and Italy under the new lockdown regime.

($1 = 0.8160 euros)

(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Clelia Oziel)