Strabag takes “drastic step” of shuttering its Austrian sites

Austria’s largest construction company has announced that it is halting operations throughout most of the country from today until further notice. About 1,000 sites will be affected.

Thomas Birtel, Strabag’s chief executive, said in a press statement: "The restrictions on public life associated with the coronavirus prevention measures are having an enormous impact on our construction operations. After weighing all the interests and, above all, due to our responsibility to society, we feel compelled to take this drastic step."

The company had tried to implement a federal directive that required workers to maintain a 1m distance between each other, but concluded that this could not be guaranteed.

It also decided that it could not maintain its supply chains or be sure that subcontractors would be available.

The sites are being secured and are expected to remain shuttered for "several weeks". However, projects in which the minimum distance can be maintained, and those of "overriding public interest", will continue "to a limited extent".

The company added that it was not yet sure whether and to what extent construction work would be suspended in other countries where it operates. The company employs some 75,000 people around the world, and has a revenue of about €16bn.

It also said that the effect on its results was impossible to predict.

Austria will spend up to €38bn to support the economy during the crisis, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said yesterday. So far, 1,650 people have been infected and four have died.

The country has minimised air traffic, put ski regions under lockdown, closed its schools and most shops, urged Austrians to self-isolate, and introduced border controls with Italy, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

Image: Strabag’s Vienna headquarters (Strabag)

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