From Tuesday, November 17th, Austria put in place a range of strict new coronavirus lockdown measures to curb the spread of the virus.
The measures are extensive and include a 24-hour curfew along with the closure of most shops and businesses.
Here’s what you need to know.
Why a stricter lockdown?
On Tuesday, November 3rd, Austria went into a nationwide ‘shutdown’ in order to reduce the spread of Covid-19.
While a range of measures including a nighttime curfew were adopted, infections continued to climb throughout the country – so much so that on Saturday, November 14th, Austria had the most new cases in the world per capita over the past seven days.
As a result, the government announced a snap lockdown to apply from November 17th onwards.
What measures will come into place?
The lockdown measures will be extensive and will touch on several aspects of life.
Schools are set to move to distance learning, meeting other people is set to be heavily restricted and leaving the house will be prohibited except for a limited range of exceptions.
More information about the measures is available here.
How many people can I meet?
One area of confusion when the announcement was made related to contact restrictions.
On Sunday evening, Austria’s Ministry of Health clarified the rules.
As reported in Der Standard, only one individual is allowed to visit members of another household (regardless of the number of people in the household).
Furthermore, the people visited must be “close family members” or “important contacts with whom contact is maintained several times a week”, rather than friends or acquaintances.
This means that more than one member of one household is not allowed to meet several members of another household.
Whether a person is defined as an “important contact” or not will depend on a case-by-case assessment, the government confirmed.
People who live alone meet more than one person during the lockdown?
Another major source of confusion has been whether people who live alone are allowed to visit more than one person (i.e. in different households) for the duration of the lockdown.
Initially, Interior Minister Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) said that people who live alone should determine just one person/household they plan on visiting during the lockdown, with visits restricted to just that person or household.
However, the Ministry of Health confirmed on Sunday evening that this rule does not apply.
As reported in Der Standard, it “is also clear that one does not have to define one or more individual people who one meets during the lockdown – they can be different people, provided they fall under the terms “closest relatives” or “important reference persons”.
What are the rules for schools?
Under the lockdown, compulsory schools (elementary schools, kindergartens, secondary schools, lower level AHS, but not special schools) will go into distance learning from Tuesday until December 7th.
However, while normal lessons will not take place, schools will still be open to provide care for children who need it.
The current rule is that “all children who can be cared for at home should stay home”.
This is a change from the lockdown in the spring, where only parents who worked in essential professions were allowed to send their children to school.
Education Minister Heinz Faßmann told the media that a learning environment would be created for all children who do not have quiet workplaces at home or who do not have the equipment for technical lessons.
These children “should come so that the educational gap does not widen further” Faßmann said.
Special schools will run largely as normal, reports Austria’s Kronen Zeitung as “distance learning is difficult to implement due to the children's limitations”.
If you are a parent or a caregiver, please contact your school to discuss the specific measures which have been put in place.
Editor's note: Please keep in mind that this article, as with all of our guides, are to provide assistance only. They are not intended to take the place of official legal advice.