UPDATED: Everything you need to know about Austria’s coronavirus shutdown

UPDATED: Everything you need to know about Austria’s coronavirus shutdown
Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP
On Tuesday, November 3rd, Austria will enter a month-long ‘coronavirus shutdown’. Here’s what you need to know.

What measures have been announced? 

The Austrian government announced a range of measures to curb the spread of the virus. 

The centrepiece is a nighttime curfew or restriction, which basically states that people are not allowed to leave the house between 8pm and 6am unless they have a valid reason. 

From Wednesday, November 11th, shops across Austria have been forced to close at 7pm in order to give people enough time to be home before the curfew begins.

Events will also be banned – including Austria’s famous Christmas markets. 

Bars, restaurants and cafes are forced to close, other than to offer take away services. 

High schools and universities will be forced into distance learning, while kindergartens and other schools will remain open. 

While working from home will be encouraged where possible, it has not been mandated as part of the edict. 

An overview of the measures which have been announced is available here

What is the point of the night curfew? 

Epidemiological researchers say that private gatherings have emerged as a major source of infections. 

“People will still be allowed to go to work, to provide help, and to stretch their legs, but it is a ban on visiting other people during these hours,” said Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, adding that private visits were a main cause of the recent surge in infections.

“In Austria we’ve seen an exponential increase in cases and in the last few weeks, and an almost explosive increase in the past seven days,” she said in justifying what he described as “hard measures.”

What is a valid excuse to leave the house? 

Leaving the house after 8pm to go to work, to go to your partner’s house, to exercise – including with a pet – and to visit the doctor are all considered valid excuses.

How long will the measures last? 

The package of measures kick in at 12am on Tuesday and will be in place until November 30th. 

The measures – including the night curfew – can be extended beyond the end of November, with government sources saying whether they will be extended or not will depend on how effective they have been.

Due to legal restrictions, the nighttime curfew can only be put in place for ten days at a time. On Wednesday, November 11th, it was extended for an additional ten days

From there, the night curfew can be extended ten days at a time. 

Yeah but will the measures really end on November 30th? 

Whether the measures will actually end on that date however is not yet certain. 

Chancellor Kurz said the primary consideration in making the call will be hospitalisation rates. 

The government has however not given a concrete indication as to how many beds must be free – or how many new cases must be recorded daily – for the measures to be wound back. 

Can I go out for a pizza after 8pm? 

No. Picking up food and drinks is only allowed between 6am and 8pm. 

If you’re hungry, you are allowed to get food delivered during the period of the night curfew as restaurants with a delivery option are allowed to stay open. 

Can I meet people outside? 

During the night no, but during the day you can meet a maximum of six people at the one time – with the group coming from no more than two households. 

This can be a different household each day – i.e. you are not required to nominate a specific household at the start of the month. 

Children do not count towards the overall tally. 

Can my partner still stay over?

Yes. A ‘life partner’ with whom you do not live is allowed to stay over after 8pm pursuant to the rules. 

How do I prove that I have a valid reason for leaving during the nighttime? 

Unlike in other European countries, there is no specific form to be filled out, nor does evidence need to be provided by your employer. 

Interior Minister Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) said if you are stopped by a police officer, you simply need to explain why you are outside. 

It will ultimately be a decision for the police as to whether your reason is deemed to be legitimate. 

Officers have the option to report you if they believe you are lying or if you do not have a good enough excuse. 

Does it have to be my house? 

Yes. Being at another person’s house – unless its your partner – is not just forbidden under the rules, but it’s exactly the type of behaviour that the edict was brought in to stop. 

After 8pm you must be in your own home or that of your partners. 

If you are lucky enough to have a second home, then this is also OK. 

Will the police be stopping around to check? 

The Austrian government has said on a number of occasions that police will not be sent in to control the edict in the private sphere. 

Instead, they have appealed to the common sense and solidarity of the Austrian people in fighting the pandemic. 

That said, noise complaints are likely to attract a little extra attention than they otherwise might have gone unnoticed. 

Can I stay in a hotel? 

Yes and no. Staying in a hotel is generally not allowed – i.e. as a tourist – however there are a number of exceptions. 

If you were staying in the hotel at the time the shutdown came into place, you will be allowed to stay. 

If you’re travelling for work, you will also be allowed to stay. 

If you have an ‘urgent need for housing’ you may also stay in a hotel. 

If you are taking care of someone, you may stay in a hotel – i.e. if you are visiting someone in a hospital. 

Boarding schools and similar institutions are also exempt from this restriction. 

What about schools? 

Kindergartens and compulsory schools will remain open and will operate largely as is. 

Distance learning will be applied to universities, upper schools, technical colleges and universities of teacher education. 

More information on Austria’s coronavirus measures can be found here. 


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