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EXPLAINED: What are Austria’s current coronavirus lockdown rules?

Austria has put in place nationwide coronavirus measures. Here's what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: What are Austria's current coronavirus lockdown rules?
Photo: Tobias Schwarz / AFP

Austria has put in place a nationwide set of coronavirus measures which applies in each of the country’s federal states, other than Vorarlberg which has relaxed measures. 

As of May 3rd, Vienna and Lower Austria have wound back their coronavirus rules – meaning that the majority of the country is under the same restrictions. 

The rules are expected to remain in place until May 19th, when Austria will relax its measures

What has the government announced? 

Austria on March 22nd decided to extend existing nationwide coronavirus lockdown measures beyond Easter.

Previously, the Austrian government had indicated that some lockdown rules would be relaxed on Saturday, March 27th – however this was postponed due to higher than expected infection rates and hospitalisations. 

Now, they are expected to be in place until May 19th. 

READ MORE: How does Austria decide whether to tighten or loosen coronavirus measures?

Unlike the plan announced in February, the Austrian government said regional variations to lockdown rules would be possible from April onwards. 

This has already been made possible in the western state of Vorarlberg, where pubs and restaurants have been allowed open and events with up to 100 people can take place since March 15th. 

Austria has also allowed for regional lockdowns to take place in recent months, for instance due to high case numbers or variants. More information is available here

What are the current coronavirus rules in Austria? 

Austrians in all outdoor and indoor areas are encouraged to keep two metres distance from each other at all times. 

For an official list of the coronavirus measures which apply, please click here

Stay at home order at nighttime

Austria’s 24-hour stay at home order will only apply between 8pm and 6am from February 8th. 

More information as to the rules of the order – and when you are allowed to leave – is available at the following link. 

UPDATED: When am I allowed to leave my home under Austria’s coronavirus measures? 

Two households

Two households are allowed to meet during the day (from 6am to 8pm) from February 8th.

This can be up to a maximum of four adults and a maximum of six children.   

Shops

The hard lockdown on ‘non-essential’ retailers has been relaxed, with smaller shops selling clothes and gifts again allowed to reopen. 

FFP2 masks will be required in all shops. 

EXPLAINED: Why is Austria making FFP2 masks mandatory? 

Customer numbers will however be restricted to one per 20 square metres. Where a business has a square meterage which is lower than 20, only one customer will be allowed. 

Schools

Face-to-face lessons will again take place at Austrian schools, however this will be done with divided classes.

There will be two days of face-to-face classes followed by two days of distance learning (i.e. from home). 

The changes apply to both lower and upper schools. 

“We have agreed that the schools should return to classroom teaching after the semester break,” said Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. 

Teachers and students will also be tested weekly. 

EXPLAINED: How Austria plans to test all school children to end coronavirus lockdown 

Hairdressers and beauty services again allowed – but only with a negative test

In addition, ‘body hugging service providers’ – i.e. hairdressers 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.

EXPLAINED: Austria’s compulsory testing scheme for hairdressers

Museums, zoos and libraries can again open

Museums, libraries and art galleries are allowed to open, although FFP2 masks will be required and limits will be placed on the number of people who can enter. 

The requirement of one person per 20 metres also applies in indoor areas of museums, zoos and libraries. 

Border controls

In addition to the following measures, Austria also pledged to toughen border controls to keep out the variants of the coronavirus. 

More information about Austria’s border measures can be found here. 

Sport – for under 18s

Non-contact outdoor sports are allowed for people up to the age of 18. 

A maximum of ten people – plus two trainers or coaches (of any age) – are allowed to participate. 

‘Body-hugging services’: Hairdressers, cosmetic salons and tattoo parlours

From Monday, February 8th, Austria allowed so-called ‘body-hugging services’ to open again – albeit subject to a testing requirement. 

Anyone wanting to visit hairdressers, cosmetic services and tattoo parlours will need to provide evidence of a negative test. 

More information is available at the following link. 

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

What has not been relaxed? 

At this stage, despite their recent protests it appears that hotels, restaurants, bars and cafes will have to wait a little longer before being allowed to reopen. 

‘Five months with no guests’: Can Vienna’s famous cafes survive coronavirus pandemic? 

Sports and leisure facilities, along with theatres, operas and cinemas, will also need to remain closed. 

Lockdowns in sports and leisure as well as gastronomy will be extended until at least the end of February. 

One of the few exceptions to the wide-ranging shutdown in recent weeks has been ski resorts, which have stayed open for local visitors despite several reported outbreaks.

In addition, mask fines are being increased. Formerly these were €25-40, but will be €90 from February 8th onwards. 

READ MORE: Austria to increase fines for failing to wear masks 

Why is it being relaxed – and why is it not being relaxed further?

One of the major reasons that a full relaxation has been avoided is due to the prevalence of the coronavirus mutation in Austria. 

Kurz called upon each resident of Austria to take responsibility to ensure infection numbers continue to fall in the coming weeks. 

“Once again, the responsibility of each individual in the country will play an important role”. 

NOTE: This report has been updated over time to reflect changes in the Austrian government’s coronavirus lockdown rules. 
 

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COVID-19 ALERT

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

A resurgence of Covid-19 cases in Europe, this time driven by new, fast-spreading Omicron subvariants, is once again threatening to disrupt people's summer plans.

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

Several Western European nations have recently recorded their highest daily case numbers in months, due in part to Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5.

The increase in cases has spurred calls for increased vigilance across a continent that has relaxed most if not all coronavirus restrictions.

The first resurgence came in May in Portugal, where BA.5 propelled a wave that hit almost 30,000 cases a day at the beginning of June. That wave has since started to subside, however.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: German Health Ministry lays out autumn Covid plan

Italy recorded more than 62,700 cases on Tuesday, nearly doubling the number from the previous week, the health ministry said. 

Germany meanwhile reported more than 122,000 cases on Tuesday. 

France recorded over 95,000 cases on Tuesday, its highest daily number since late April, representing a 45-percent increase in just a week.

Austria this Wednesday recorded more than 10,000 for the first time since April.

READ ALSO: Italy’s transport mask rule extended to September as Covid rate rises

Cases have also surged in Britain, where there has been a seven-fold increase in Omicron reinfection, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS blamed the rise on the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, but also said Covid fell to the sixth most common cause of death in May, accounting for 3.3 percent of all deaths in England and Wales.

BA.5 ‘taking over’

Mircea Sofonea, an epidemiologist at the University of Montpellier, said Covid’s European summer wave could be explained by two factors.

READ ALSO: 11,000 new cases: Will Austria reintroduce restrictions as infection numbers rise?

One is declining immunity, because “the protection conferred by an infection or a vaccine dose decreases in time,” he told AFP.

The other came down to the new subvariants BA.4 and particularly BA.5, which are spreading more quickly because they appear to be both more contagious and better able to escape immunity.

Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus and immunity unit at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said BA.5 was “taking over” because it is 10 percent more contagious than BA.2.

“We are faced with a continuous evolution of the virus, which encounters people who already have antibodies — because they have been previously infected or vaccinated — and then must find a selective advantage to be able to sneak in,” he said.

READ ALSO: Tourists: What to do if you test positive for Covid in France

But are the new subvariants more severe?

“Based on limited data, there is no evidence of BA.4 and BA.5 being associated with increased infection severity compared to the circulating variants BA.1 and BA.2,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said last week.

But rising cases can result in increasing hospitalisations and deaths, the ECDC warned.

Could masks be making a comeback over summer? (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Alain Fischer, who coordinates France’s pandemic vaccine strategy, warned that the country’s hospitalisations had begun to rise, which would likely lead to more intensive care admissions and eventually more deaths.

However, in Germany, virologist Klaus Stohr told the ZDF channel that “nothing dramatic will happen in the intensive care units in hospitals”.

Return of the mask? 

The ECDC called on European countries to “remain vigilant” by maintaining testing and surveillance systems.

“It is expected that additional booster doses will be needed for those groups most at risk of severe disease, in anticipation of future waves,” it added.

Faced with rising cases, last week Italy’s government chose to extend a requirement to wear medical grade FFP2 masks on public transport until September 30.

“I want to continue to recommend protecting yourself by getting a second booster shot,” said Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza, who recently tested positive for Covid.

READ ALSO: Spain to offer fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to ‘entire population’

Fischer said France had “clearly insufficient vaccination rates” and that a second booster shot was needed.

Germany’s government is waiting on expert advice on June 30 to decide whether to reimpose mandatory mask-wearing rules indoors.

The chairman of the World Medical Association, German doctor Frank Ulrich Montgomery, has recommended a “toolbox” against the Covid wave that includes mask-wearing, vaccination and limiting the number of contacts.

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