VIENNA, July 24 – Austria’s push to test large numbers of hotel staff for the coronavirus in a bid to reassure tourists is falling far short of its target as too few people have signed up, Tourism Minister Elisabeth Koestinger said on Friday.
The scheme, which began on July 1, is supposed to test 65,000 staff in hotels and other forms of accommodation each week – roughly matching the number of tests otherwise carried out nationally.
The total number of tests carried out so far, however, is just a fraction of that, Koestinger told ORF radio, putting it at more than 14,000.
“We have achieved the capacity to be able to carry out 65,000 tests (a week)… Now we need the businesses, the employees to register, to take part and above all to let themselves be tested regularly,” Koestinger said, without explaining why so few had signed up.
Austria’s outbreak has been relatively limited compared with those in other Western European countries. It has recorded 20,215 cases and just 711 deaths, though infections have accelerated in the past month.
It was one of the first EU countries to introduce a lockdown, in mid-March, which it started loosening a month later. Hotels were allowed to reopen on May 29.
Tourism directly contributes about 6% of Austria’s economic output, and Germans are the top foreign visitors.
Austria’s reputation as a tourist destination has taken a hit, however, because of a large outbreak at Ischgl, a ski resort known for its party scene. Hundreds of people were infected in February and March before the first case was identified there.
“I also believe above all that now, because of the renewed increase in infection numbers, there will be an increase in awareness and that more people will sign up,” Koestinger said. (Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Nick Macfie)