Experiments in Austria and Denmark could offer clues to what a post-coronavirus economy looks like

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There is a glimmer of light in Europe over the damage caused by the coronavirus outbreak. Two countries, Austria and Denmark, have set out a plan to get their economies moving again. If these are successful they could give the rest of Europe, the UK and crucially the US, a template for their own escape programmes.

There are other signs of life as the virus crisis recedes, including the report that there were no new deaths from Covid-19 officially recorded in China, and Hong Kong’s gradual return to work. But what happens in continental Europe gives much more direct guidance. Austria in particular was hit early by an outbreak in the ski resort of Ischgl. Local authorities there have been accused of acting too late following the first signs of an outbreak, with that allegation now the subject of a police investigation as part of a legal case initiated by the Austrian Consumer Protection Association.

However, the fact that Austria is ahead of the rest of Europe in experiencing the outbreak means that it may well be ahead in getting back to normal. The plan, announced by the chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, is for small shops to open on 14 April, the day after the Easter Monday holiday, then all shops and hairdressers on 1 May. Restaurants and hotels will not open until mid-May at the earliest and there will be no public events until late June. People will have to wear masks when they go into shops or on public transport.

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