Can I have a casual relationship under Austria’s new coronavirus measures?

Can I have a casual relationship under Austria’s new coronavirus measures?
Photo: GEORG HOCHMUTH / APA / AFP
The centrepiece of Austria’s new coronavirus measures is a curfew from 8pm to 6am. Under what circumstances can you leave the house?

From Tuesday, November 3rd, people are not allowed to leave the house between 8pm and 6am unless they have a valid reason. 

But while spending the night with your ‘life partner’ is allowed under the rules, what about something a little more casual? 

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

Who can stay over – and who can’t? 

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,” Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said, adding that private visits were a main cause of the recent surge in infections.

This has motivated the ban on visits to private homes. 

The Austrian government has however said an exception to the rule can be anything which “covers the basic needs of life”. 

As reported in Kleine Zeitung, during the press conference the Austrian government sought to reinforce that staying over with a partner who lives in a different apartment was covered by the “basic human needs” exception. 

This means that not only can you stay over, but you can leave the house after 8pm to head over to their place. 

In addition, visits to family and relatives are also allowed. 

READ: Everything you need to know about Austria's coronavirus shutdown 

‘Life partners’

The term used by the Austrian media is ‘life partners’. 

Little further information has been given by the government, for instance about the length of the partnership or the nature of it – which leads to the obvious question about whether new or casual relationships fall within the ‘human needs’ exception. 

Michael Mayrhofer, head of the Institute for Administrative Law at the JKU Linz and part of the legal expert group of Austrian Health Minister Rudolf Anschober, said that while it isn’t clear, it is most likely that casual relationships are covered by the exception. 

Speaking with Austrian newspaper Der Standard, Mayrhofer said he thought that ‘casual relationships’ would be possible under the law. 

Mayrhofer said the ‘basic human needs’ exception would probably apply to relationships which “are more than just a friendship”. 

Mayrhofer said that it made little sense that people would be able to stay up until 7:30pm but not afterwards. 

“It is certainly a borderline case, but it does not bring any improvement in the infection rate if I go home at half past seven in the evening when you spend all the time together anyway.”

Will the police come knocking? 

While the police are likely to be stopping people at random outside at night after 8pm, 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.


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