At a meeting on Friday, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said the country was considering allowing people with evidence of a negative coronavirus test to visit bars and restaurants again from March.
The scheme, similar to that used for hairdressers and tattoo parlours in Austria, would allow bars and restaurants to open again.
Kurz said the gradual reopening – including of bars and restaurants – would see Austria “relying heavily on the testing system in order to make more freedom possible”.
The Chancellor said the hospitality industry now had until March 1st to present a plan for how such a scheme should operate.
A decision will be made on March 1st, from which bars and restaurants could again be allowed to open.
What would this ‘entry testing’ plan look like?
While it is a novel idea as a way to allow a gradual return to normal, Austrians do not need to look very far to see how such a plan might work.
Austrians have been allowed to visit hairdressers and other ‘body hugging services’ like tattoo parlours and cosmetic services since February 8th.
In order to do so, they need to bring a negative coronavirus test which is less than 48 hours old.
Like this scheme, Austrians wanting to visit bars or restaurants would need to provide evidence of a negative coronavirus test to enter.
Haven’t I heard of this before?
In January, Austrian state governors’ floated a plan to set up a system whereby evidence of a negative test will be shown on a person’s phone in order to enter bars, restaurants, events and performances.
When gaining entry to an event such as a concert, theatre performance or a sports match, attendees would show evidence of a negative test – along with their admission ticket.
READ MORE: Austria to extend coronavirus lockdown
Under the proposed plan, anyone entering a bar or restaurant would need to provide evidence of their negative test – whether that be on their phone or through a testing certificate.
How likely is it to pass?
When the announcement was made on Friday, February 19th, Kurz appeared optimistic that such a plan could be successful.
It appears to be a departure from the previous plan, which was opposed by many in the hospitality sector.
At the press conference, Kurz said “the tide has turned” regarding opposition to the plan.
“I understand every landlord or hotelier would rather unlock the door today than tomorrow,” Kurz said, pointing out that bars and restaurants “are an important part of our Austrian identity in everyday life”.
The stumbling block last time was who would have the responsibility of checking that bars and restaurants were complying with the scheme.
At the time, Der Standard reported that “the question of who would be responsible for checking the tests in bars emerged as the central problem” in the scheme.
This could remain a problem, particularly at bars and restaurants where the responsibility of checking each person’s valid negative test may create an undue burden on already resource-strapped entities.
However, with such a system working relatively well in hairdressers, bars and restaurants appear to have become more enthusiastic about the idea.
The Austrian government will meet with industry representatives and make a decision on March 1st.