Austria went into a tight lockdown on Tuesday, November 17th.
Under the lockdown, everyone in Austria has been required to stay home 24 hours a day other than for a limited range of exceptions.
The lockdown will stay in place until at least December 6th and the rules apply in all of Austria’s nine states.
Under the rules, people will only be allowed to leave the house for the ‘necessary basic needs of life’.
While these ‘needs’ are not expressly defined, the Austrian government has clarified what people are allowed to do on several occasions that include visiting close family and friends, go to the doctor, exercise, shopping and going to work.
According to the Austrian Ministry of Health, the restrictions allow people to leave the house for “physical and mental recovery”.
What exactly that means – and whether it includes a vacation – is however up for debate.
Can I stay with family or friends in Austria?
Staying with family or friends is permitted, provided the connection is ‘close’ – i.e. an ‘important contact’.
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.
Whether a person is defined as an “important contact” or not will depend on a case-by-case assessment, the government confirmed, reports Der Standard.
Can my family visit another family – or must I travel alone?
It does however appear that one family cannot go to meet another family under the current rules which apply until December 6th.
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).
Can I go for a vacation in Austria?
If you are not visiting family and friends, it appears you cannot currently go on vacation in Austria. Hotel stays for the purposes of a vacation are not considered by the Ministry to be acceptable.
One exception is if you have a second home in another part of Austria. In that case, you may travel and stay overnight there – but the usual lockdown rules apply.
Can I leave Austria?
Under the rules, you are clearly allowed to leave Austria to visit close family members, partners or for professional reasons.
Travelling to a second home outside of Austria is also permitted, Kurier reports.
Note that there may be entry restrictions or other rules to comply with in the destination country.
In addition, the Ministry of Health has confirmed that you are allowed to walk, run or cycle in a neighbouring country for the purposes of “physical and mental recovery”.
However, staying in a hotel abroad is not considered by the Ministry to be a legitimate reason for “physical and mental recovery” unless it is for professional reasons, to visit family or to take care of a sick relative, Kurier reports.
Does this mean that a holiday abroad is therefore forbidden?
According to Kurier, while health authorities allow you to spend time away from your place of residence for the purposes of relaxation, whether you can head to the Canary Islands for a few days – or whether you can be stopped and fined on your way to the airport – is up in the air.
Constitutional and administrative lawyer Peter Bußjäger told Kurier that trips abroad are “officially not forbidden” and that an effort to fine someone for going on vacation “would probably not hold up in court”.
“Prohibition norms have to be precise, but the regulation is not enough at this point,” he said.
Bußjäger said a court would be likely to strike down an attempt to prevent someone from staying in a hotel abroad on a holiday – primarily as visits to second homes are allowed.
Bußjäger said however that the reason for heading abroad would be relevant in the court’s decision.
“It is understandable that there is a higher risk of infection in a hotel than, for example, when hiking,” he said.
Even deciding to go abroad for a beach holiday would be looked at more favourably by the courts than, for instance, going abroad to stay in a thermal bath hotel, Bußjäger said.
Editor's note: Please keep in mind that this article, as with all of our guides, are to provide assistance only. This advice relates to the current lockdown rules, which apply until December 6th. They are not intended to take the place of official legal advice.