‘No mask requirement for Christmas gatherings’: Austria clarifies confusion over new restrictions

No, the Austrian government will not force you to wear a face mask at home this Christmas.

‘No mask requirement for Christmas gatherings’: Austria clarifies confusion over new restrictions
Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

After Austrian media reported that a new set of coronavirus measures could require people to wear masks at home during Christmas gatherings, the government has clarified that nobody will be forced to wear a mask around the tree while at home. 

Politician Herbert Kickl (FPÖ) criticised the government for an “outrageous attack on the privacy of Austrians” after media reports suggested Austrians would be required to wear masks at home during Christmas celebrations. 

READ: What kind of post-Christmas lockdown will Austria announce? 

“Stay away from the Christmas holidays” the former Minister of the Interior said, reported Kronen Zeitung

In the initial draft plan, which was leaked to Austrian media this week, said that masks should be worn in private gatherings in the “extended private living area” over the Christmas period. 

However, in a clarification issued on December 16th, the government confirmed that there would be “no compulsory distance and mask” required at private gatherings on the 24th and 25th of December

The government confirmed that the “extended private living area” does not include lounge rooms, kitchens, dining rooms and bedrooms, meaning masks are not required at all in these areas. 

Instead, the extended private living area includes “garages, garden sheds and barns”, Kronen Zeitung reports, with masks required in these areas if people not from the household are in attendance. 

Where are masks required?

Under the extended mask rules, masks will also be required in the workplace, provided more than one person is in a room at one time without a partition (i.e. plexiglas barrier). 

While this will apply in offices, etc, there are some exceptions if it would make the work impossible to carry out. The one example given by the government is for actors. 


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EXPLAINED: How to register for the monkeypox vaccine in Vienna

Austria's capital city Vienna has begun registration appointments for those who want to get a monkeypox vaccine. Here's what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: How to register for the monkeypox vaccine in Vienna

As of September 9th, people can make reservations for monkeypox vaccination in Vienna, authorities announced. It is possible to register for the vaccine using the health service line by calling 1450 or via the Impfservice website.

The City of Vienna has said the pre-registration is needed because all planning will be done through a central system due to a shortage of vaccines.

“Please understand that due to the vaccine shortage, we cannot offer preventive monkeypox vaccination to everyone interested. We can use the reservation platform to quickly allocate available appointments and contact interested parties as soon as there are more vaccines”, the authorities said.

After the registration, people will be contacted to book appointments on September 14th. The first available date will be September 19th.

READ ALSO: Monkeypox in Austria: What causes it and is it serious?

Who should be vaccinated against monkeypox?

Vaccination of the general population is currently not recommended.

Preventive vaccination is only offered to health care workers with a very high risk of exposure to people with monkeypox (designated monkeypox departments/outpatient clinics/offices) and persons with individual risk behaviour (persons with frequently changing sexual contacts), the City of Vienna said.

The health authorities in Vienna also have a specific information sheet in English with more information on the disease.

Monkeypox is a notifiable disease caused by a virus closely related to the smallpox virus and which can cause a condition similar to smallpox but rarely deadly. People with immunodeficiencies, pregnant women and children are at risk of more severe symptoms.

The virus spreads from person to person through contact with infectious skin lesions, via air droplets through speaking, coughing, sneezing, or other body fluids, and when having prolonged and close physical contact, e.g. through sexual intercourse.

READ ALSO: Austria recommends 4th Covid vaccine dose for everyone over 12

Usually, the first symptoms show up 5 to 14 days (at the latest, 21 days) after exposure. These include fever, general exhaustion, headaches, muscle and body aches, gastrointestinal problems and frequently painfully swollen lymph nodes.

“If you have symptoms and have had contact with someone with monkeypox, you must self-isolate at once and call 1450. If you have a confirmed monkeypox infection, you need to stay in self-isolation until the last crust has fallen off”, the Austrian authorities added.