EXPLAINED: What is Austria’s compulsory testing requirement for visiting hairdressers?

From Monday, hairdressers, tattooists and beauticians will again be allowed to open - but all customers will need a new negative coronavirus test. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: What is Austria’s compulsory testing requirement for visiting hairdressers?

After weeks of watching their locks get wild and unkempt, Austrians will again be allowed to visit the hairdresser from Monday, February 8th. 

Hairdressers have been forced to close in Austria since December 24th. 

The announcement was made on Monday, February 1st along with a range of other lockdown announcements. 

EXPLAINED: What are Austria's new coronavirus lockdown rules? 

However, in addition to wearing an FFP2 mask and a range of other coronavirus safety measures, Austrians must also present a negative coronavirus test. 

Children from the age of 10 will require a test. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

Hairdressers, tattoos and beauty services again allowed from February 8th – but only with a negative test

In addition, ‘body hugging service providers’ – i.e. hairdressers, tattooists and cosmetic services – will again be allowed to open. 

These services will be subject to strict hygiene measures, such as FFP2 masks, maximum numbers of people per square metre and the recording of contact details. 

People will also be required to show a negative coronavirus test which is less than 48 hours old. 

“Here we will rely on the concept of entrance tests,” the chancellor said.

Wolfgang Eder, spokesman for the hairdressing peak body in Austria, said he was satisfied with the rules: “It is important that we open up! The entrance tests for our customers have to be as easy as in schools.”

Hairdressers themselves have also been happy, saying that they've filled up almost immediately with bookings. 

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz's hairdresser in Vienna told Austrian media that he was booked out for the next five weeks following the announcement

There are more than 9,000 salons with more than 17,000 employees in Austria. 

How will it work?

Anyone going to a ‘body-hugging service provider’ will need to present a negative coronavirus test which is less than 48 hours old. 

Known in Austria as ‘entry tests’, this is the first step in a broader scheme to require people to show negative tests in various locations, including bars, restaurants, clubs, events and sports games. 

ANALYSIS: Has Austria picked the right strategy to fight the Covid-19 pandemic? 

The tests can either be a PCR or an antigen (i.e. rapid) test. 

The main proviso is that the test be carried out by a medical professional. 

This can be at a pharmacy, however 'self-tests' which are done at home will not count. 

Who bears the cost of the test? 

Contrary to some reports, hairdressers and business owners will not bear the cost of coronavirus tests themselves. 

The responsibility for getting tested falls on the person who wants to visit a hairdresser or beautician, but that does not necessarily mean they must bear the cost. 

Austria has put in place an extensive free ‘mass testing’ scheme to target clusters of the virus. 

As a result, free tests are available all over the country, including at pharmacies and at numerous ‘testing streets’ in larger cities and towns. 

READ MORE: Austria makes testing free at pharmacies

Do hairdressers, beauticians etc also need to get tested? 

Yes. Hairdressers and all other body-hugging service providers need to be tested “at least once a week,” said Anschober in an interview

Who will check that the tests are legit?

The company itself – i.e. the hairdresser/tattooist – will be required to check that the tests are legitimate. 

Police and health authorities will be carrying out random checks to make sure everyone is sticking to the rules. 

What about if I had the virus and recovered?

Anyone who has contracted coronavirus in the past six months and recovered does not need to complete a test, although you will need to provide evidence of your infection. 

Are there any other rules? 

As with most indoor areas in Austria, an FFP2 mask must be worn when visiting body-hugging services. 

In addition, businesses will be restricted as to how many customers they are allowed in. 

Only one person will be allowed per 20 square metres – the same restriction which applies in retail. 

If the business area is less than 20 square metres, then only one customer will be allowed. 

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WHO says European festivals should go ahead despite monkeypox risk

Most new cases of monkeypox are currently detected in Western Europe. The World Health Organisation says this is no reason to cancel more than 800 festivals scheduled to take place on the continent this summer.

WHO says European festivals should go ahead despite monkeypox risk

The World Health Organization said Friday that European summer festivals should not be cancelled due to the monkeypox outbreak but should instead manage the risk of amplifying the virus.

A surge of monkeypox cases has been detected since May outside of the West and Central African countries where the disease has long been endemic.

Most of the new cases have been in Western Europe.

More than 3,200 confirmed cases and one death have now been reported to the WHO from 48 countries in total this year.

“We have all the summer festivals, concerts and many other events just starting in the northern hemisphere,” Amaia Artazcoz, the WHO’s mass gatherings technical officer, told a webinar entitled “Monkeypox outbreak and mass gatherings: Protecting yourself at festivals and parties”.

The events “may represent a conducive environment for transmission”, she said.

“These gatherings have really close proximity and usually for a prolonged period of time, and also a lot of frequent interactions among people,” Artazcoz explained.

“Nevertheless… we are not recommending postponing or cancelling any of the events in the areas where monkeypox cases have been identified.”

Sarah Tyler, the senior communications consultant on health emergencies at WHO Europe, said there were going to be more than 800 festivals in the region, bringing together hundreds of thousands of people from different countries.

“Most attendees are highly mobile and sexually active and a number of them will have intimate skin-to-skin contact at or around these events,” she said.

“Some may also have multiple sexual contacts, including new or anonymous partners. Without action, we risk seeing a surge in monkeypox cases in Europe this summer.”

Risk awareness

The UN health agency recommends that countries identify events most likely to be associated with the risk of monkeypox transmission.

The WHO urged festival organisers to raise awareness through effective communication, detect cases early, stop transmission and protect people at risk.

The outbreak in newly-affected countries is primarily among men who have sex with men, and who have reported recent sex with new or multiple partners, according to the WHO.

People with symptoms are advised to avoid attending gatherings, while people in communities among whom monkeypox has been found to occur more frequently than in the general population should exercise particular caution, it says.

The normal initial symptoms of monkeypox include a high fever, swollen lymph nodes and a blistery chickenpox-like rash.

Meg Doherty, from the global HIV, hepatitis and sexually-transmitted infection programmes at WHO, said: “We are not calling this a sexually-transmitted infection.

“Stigmatising never helps in a disease outbreak,” she added.

“This is not a gay disease. However, we want people to be aware of what the risks are.”