The lockdown was set to end on January 25th, but is now extended a further two weeks. The minimum distance has been extended from one to two metres, while FFP2 masks are now required in public transport and retail.
Face-to-face lessons in schools will now start again on the 8th of February at the earliest.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told reporters he expected “two to three hard months” as the country continued to battle high coronavirus infection rates.
Opening the country now “would not be courageous but it would be reckless – it would be negligence”, Kurz said.
Kurz said the situation warranted an extension to the lockdown “even if we are already fed up with it”.
Austria currently has a seven-day infection rate of 130 per 100,000 people – well above the target of 50.
A major reason for the extension is the prevalence of the coronavirus mutation across Austria. The mutation was originally detected in the United Kingdom.
What measures will stay in place?
The stay-at-home order will be extended until February 7th, while hospitality (restaurants and bars) will need to remain closed.
From January 25th, FFP2 masks will be required in public transport and in retail.
In addition, the minimum distance has been extended from one metre to two metres.
The government however said that it would not yet follow Switzerland’s lead in making working from home mandatory.
FF2 masks now mandatory in public transport and shops
Austria has followed Bavaria’s lead in tightening mask requirements in public transport and shops.
FFP2 masks will now be required in all retail shops and supermarkets, along with public transport throughout Austria.
Previously, cotton masks or scarves were sufficient to satisfy the regulation.
While FFP2 masks are more expensive than standard medical masks, the government has promised that they will be available to Austrians at cost price.
People on low incomes would be entitled to the masks for free, a government spokesperson said.
Supermarkets Lidl, Spar and Rewe told APA on Sunday that they would be selling the masks at cost price – although they were unable to confirm the exact costs of the masks on Sunday.
A spokesperson from Rewe told Der Standard that the masks would be offered “as cheaply as possible”.
The retailers also indicated that there would be no issues with supply, even as demand is set to spike as a result of the new law.
“Any mouth and nose protection is good, but the FFP2 mask is massively better,” said Health Minister Rudolf Anschober (Greens) on Sunday.
FFP2 masks offer better protection against the coronavirus and other pathogens, with up to 94 percent of aerosols filtered out.