Early lockdown exit for Fintown woman

THREE weeks ago Austria became one of the first countries in Europe to loosen its coronavirus lockdown, reopening DIY and garden centres as well as shops of up to 400 square metres.
The Alpine republic acted early to tackle the viral pandemic, closing bars, restaurants, schools, theatres, non-essential shops and other gathering places a month before that.
Niederau, a small village in the Tyrolean Alps, has been home to Fintown woman Fionnuala Ni Cheallabhuí for much of the past fifteen years. Married to Helmut Margreiter the couple have two children Kiera and Daniel.
The pubs in Austria are mainly ‘guest houses’ attached to hotels. They will be allowed to open again from May 15 if numbers of infected Covid-19 stays low. Strict distance and hygiene rules will be in place while a mask covering face and mouth has to be worn in all public places.
“Austria is now cautiously optimistic that things are looking up. Numbers of new cases and current cases have decreased and rules have now been relaxed since the start of May. Before that, there was a complete lockdown from March 15. The schools, shops, hotels and all non-essential businesses were closed and people were advised to stay at home.
“In addition, the rules in Tirol where I live were even stricter as they also imposed a rule where you could not leave your local council area. They also imposed a new rule that everyone has to wear a mask in public places and keep two metre distance where possible. At Easter, this complete lockdown was relaxed with people allowed to travel to shops outside the area,” she explained.
“Since May 1, we can now meet with family and friends again but should keep a minimum distance of one metre. If all goes to plan, kindergarten and schools will start again in phases from the 15 May,” she added.
For the secondary school where their daughter attends, it has been decided that the groups will be split in two with one group attending school from Monday to Wednesday and the next on Thursday and Friday. The week after the groups will be switched.
In primary school, the plan is to have half the group at school every other day. This structure will then continue until school ends on the 10th July.
In general, Austrians have been quite disciplined in following recent restrictions imposed due to the Covid virus. Several initiatives are also in place to try to help businesses during these difficult times.
“Tyrol is a mountainous part of the Alps and tourism is very important to the area. The ski season was closed two weeks earlier due to the Covid but the peak visiting time was already over. Many hotels and restaurants have been very heavily affected by the closures. There is a lot of uncertainty as to when the borders might open and then as to how many visitors will actually come to Tyrol in 2020,” she said.
Self employed, Ms Margreiter works as a Grants & Collaborations Manager for the European Huntington’s Disease Network whose headquarters are based at the University of Ulm, Germany.
“I work from home and used to travel to team meetings and conferences throughout Europe. That has of course all stopped now but work continues online and things are not that different from before….just a few video conferences more,” she said.
Fionnuala keeps regular contact with family and friends in Ireland.
“It’s important that people continue to stay at home. It’s great to hear that many local businesses are helping to produce badly needed protective clothes, disinfectant, etc. and that many people are helping out voluntarily where needed.
“I look forward to being able to visit Donegal soon again but in the meantime Fan slán sa bhaile,” Ms Margreiter said.


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