August 15, 2020 – Austrian authorities expect large crowds at the borders this weekend as travelers may shorten their holidays after Croatia was included on the list of high-risk countries.
Slobodna Dalmacija reports that local revealed Austrian citizens have decided to ignore the government’s warning and are still going on holiday to Croatia. Namely, at the entrance to Slovenia from Austria near the Karavanke tunnel, there was a wait of up to three hours on Saturday morning. In the early afternoon, traffic stretched 17 kilometers.
Kronen Zeitung wrote that they had yet to see anything from the big wave of returnees from Croatia because it seems that Austrians still want to enjoy the beach today. At the entrance to Austria near Sentilj, they waited for about an hour on Saturday morning.
The Austrian Automobile Club (ÖAMTC) expects that traffic from the south could intensify in the evening on Saturday and during Sunday.
They report that traffic at border crossings at the entrance to Austria is moderate with shorter delays. At Karavanke, the entrance to Carinthia takes 35 minutes, and at Sentilj, about an hour. They also wrote that Slovenian authorities have tightened controls and that this is causing a stalemate.
The Austrian government decided to include Croatia on the list of high-risk countries on Friday after news of a record number of cases in Croatia. Travelers returning from Croatia must show a current negative test for coronavirus from Monday or undergo testing within 48 hours.
According to current information from the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, about 3,000 Austrian citizens are officially on holiday in Croatia. But at the same time, the authorities believe that this figure is many times higher.
“We start from the fact that there are a much larger number of Austrian citizens in Croatia,” the ministry said in a statement.
The ministry also said that over 100 new cases of coronavirus infection had been reported in the last week alone, which were proven to have been brought from Croatian holidays.
Therefore, a larger number of inquiries related to travel to Croatia is expected from Monday.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be assisted by 20 Bundeswehr soldiers on a special information telephone line.
“The military has soldiers at all times who are ready to help health facilities,” said Defense Minister Claudia Tanner.
Soldiers are already helping to control entry into the country from the direction of Italy.
Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said that after Croatia, further warnings regarding travel abroad are possible. This is especially true of the Spanish Balearics.
“We know that with these warnings and restrictions on freedom of travel, we are creating problems for many Austrians. But the summer of 2020 is not like other summers,” Schallenberg told the public service ORF.
Journalists from the Kronen Zeitung also talked to Austrian tourists in Veli Losinj, who said that they were shocked by the decision of the Austrian government.
“We only came yesterday. I went to the beach without a cell phone to get as much rest as possible. When I came back, I had something to read. It just hit me,” said Peter P. of Graz.
“We knew that there was a possibility that this would happen, but I did not think that the whole country would close immediately,” he said, adding that he was returning home on Sunday and that he expected large traffic jams.
“There will be chaos on the roads, but it is great that the hotel was understanding and they will only charge us for as many nights as we spent here,” he said.
They also spoke to a German couple who was hanging out with many Austrians on Losinj. They said that many would not interrupt their vacation in Croatia. One tourist had a special message for the Austrian Chancellor.
“Kurz would have to call me in person if he wanted me to come home,” he said.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has called for stricter coronavirus controls for returnees at the borders.
“Health offices are not doing their job properly. The controls should be more thorough and faster,” Kurz told the daily “Oesterreich” on Saturday.
The opposition Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) criticized Kurz and accused him of putting pressure on local health offices. Secretary-General Michael Schnedlitz said that instead of putting pressure on these institutions, the Vienna government should take action against the growing number of falsified negative coronavirus tests on returnees from the Western Balkans.
“It has long been known that many of these allegedly negative tests of returnees from the Western Balkans are false,” Schnedlitz said on Saturday.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz called for stricter control of holiday returnees due to the increase in the number of cases in Austria.
After staying in one of about 30 risk areas, people must have a negative test that is not older than 72 hours or must be in a 10-day quarantine.
“There have to be tighter controls,” Kurz said in Saturday’s edition of Oesterreich.
Kurz did not rule out the possibility of conducting coronavirus tests at the border, which would be the task of the health authorities.
Risk areas include mainland Spain and the Western Balkans, as well as Bulgaria, Romania, Russia, Sweden and the United States.
As of Monday, returnees from Croatia will also have to present a negative test, Kurz said, adding: “There is a huge influx of cases from Croatia.”
He added that the increase is not surprising given that holidays are underway.
“The current numbers are worrying,” says Kurz. “We must do everything we can to stop the virus without introducing new comprehensive bans.”
Nearly 230 new infections were recorded in Austria on Saturday, compared to a record 282 the day before.
Since the beginning of the epidemic, just over 23,000 people have tested positive for coronavirus.