Corona-compliant cafes mark Austria reopening

Vienna (AFP) –


Cafes and restaurants were the latest part of Austria's economy to reopen Friday as coronavirus restrictions are eased -- but they will have to observe strict new safety conditions.

Staff have to cover their mouths and noses and tables must be at least one metre (three feet) apart with no more than four adults seated together -- more are allowed if they live in the same household.

Cafes and restaurants will also have to close at 11pm (2100 GMT)

In the capital Vienna, drizzly spring weather may have put a dampener on people's hopes of heading to restaurant and cafe terraces, but some patrons were nevertheless keen to return to their favourite haunts.

The first two customers at Cafe Goldegg were 19-year-old students Fanny and Sophie, enjoying breakfast at a booth by the window.

"It was quite hard for us that the cafe was closed! We missed it and so we will be coming often I think," said Sophie, admitting it no longer had the same "cosy atmosphere" as before.

Waitress Suzi Pajkic greeted guests in the traditional attire of a black dress and white apron -- with the addition of a see-through plastic shield over her nose and mouth.

"We're hoping that our normal customers will all drop by and support us so that we can keep our jobs and this beautiful old coffee house going," Pajkic said, adding that the cafe has received many messages of support over the past two months.

The coffee houses -- where tourists normally have to queue to get in -- may struggle to match their normal footfall.

In one establishment, the famous Cafe Central, only a dozen or so tables were occupied late on Friday morning.

"We hope that those Viennese people who aren't in the habit of coming will want to discover this spot," waiter Helmut told AFP.

Shared objects such as salt shakers and bread baskets are not allowed under the new rules, and Cafe Central has also done away with the newspapers it normally offers customers with their coffee.

- Fears for the future -

Some 41,000 cafes and restaurants have been shut since mid-March and while the government has disbursed grants to help them survive, many owners still fear for the future of their businesses.

Some museums also reopened on Friday, including the former imperial residence of Schoenbrunn Palace.

The first two visitors there were greeted with a bunch of flowers, and for a while had the palace's opulent rooms to themselves.

More regions of neighbouring Germany also allowed restaurants to start reopening on Friday, not a moment too soon for some enthusiastic patrons.

"I was already at a Georgian restaurant last night just after midnight as I couldn't wait," said 29-year-old Berlin resident, Axl.

At a Vietnamese restaurant in the German capital, several outdoor tables were full at lunch time.

Jenny Baese, 44, ordered a curry for herself and her two-year-old son.

"After preparing every meal myself for 12 weeks, I'm delighted that now someone else can do it for me," she said.

"I'm a little nervous, but I'm really grateful for this moment."

Austria and Germany have had relative success in controlling the spread of the novel coronavirus, introducing gradual reopening measures in recent weeks.