coronavirus austria
© Global Look Press/Matthias Balk/dpa
10 March 2020, Austria, Gries Am Brenner: A paramedic speaks to the passenger of a car coming from Italy at a checkpoint on the Brenner motorway A13.
Austria is imposing a blanket ban on all people entering from Italy unless they have a medical certificate, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has proclaimed, though Austrians currently in Italy are strongly encouraged to return.

"There will be an entry ban for people [travelling] from Italy to Austria, with people who have a medical certificate being an exception," Kurz said on Tuesday, as cited by local media.

Meanwhile, Austrians who find themselves in Italy will be allowed to return, but "they must be kept in isolation for two weeks."

Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said police will scrutinize movement at the Italian border. "A transit through Austria is allowed as long as there is no stopover in Austria," the official said, noting that cross-border traffic in both directions has already dropped by more than half.

Simultaneously, the government is calling off lectures at universities and professional schools starting from next Monday, while companies will encourage staff to work from home.

Austria has reported over 150 confirmed coronavirus cases so far, which is considered by many to be "a very small number," Kurz acknowledged. But its lethality is so high that the government can't go soft on the disease, he explained.

The sweeping measures come as all of Italy has been placed under quarantine by decree of the prime minister, with the government stepping up its efforts to contain the Covid-2019 outbreak. The deadly disease has so far affected more than 9,000 people in the country - home to 60 million - and has killed 463.