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VACCINE

Can foreigners and cross-border workers get vaccinated against coronavirus in Austria?

Foreigners - including cross-border workers - can get vaccinated in Austria under certain circumstances. Here’s what you need to know.

Can foreigners get vaccinated in Austria?
Photo: TOBIAS SCHWARZ / AFP / POOL

Austria’s vaccination drive, which began in December, is expected to kick into gear in April. 

As vaccinations become available to the general public, one question we have been asked regularly is what kind of documentation you need to get vaccinated in Austria. 

Here is the form you need to get vaccinated in Austria

More specifically, people have asked us whether you need to be an Austrian citizen to get vaccinated – and whether people who cross the border to work in Austria are also entitled to the vaccine. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

E-card holders entitled to the vaccine

As with most medical procedures in Austria, the most important document is the e-card. 

The Austrian e-card is an electronic chip card linked to the electronic administration system of Austria’s social insurance system, which includes health, accident, pension and unemployment insurance.

Anyone who wants to get vaccinated in Austria will need to present their e-card. 

What is Austria’s e-card? Everything you need to know

Foreigners who are resident in Austria will have an e-card, as will most cross-border workers. 

This means that foreigners who live abroad and who do not have Austrian citizenship are unable to access the vaccine in Austria. 

Cross-border workers who do not have health insurance in Austria will need to access the vaccine in their country of residence. 

What other documents do I have to present? 

In addition to your e-card, you need to bring your vaccination certificate and your allergy passport if you have these documents. 

If you do not, this will not prevent the vaccination. 

More information is available at the following official link. 

But what if I don’t have an e-card?

According to official government information, you need to present your e-card when you get vaccinated in order to receive the jab.

More information is available at the following official link. 

While this is unlikely to cause problems for the vast majority of Austrians and Austrian residents who have e-cards, some people such as foreign students and temporary workers do not have an e-card.

According to the Vienna Bar Association (RAK), they will not be prevented from getting the vaccine, provided they have an Austrian social security/insurance number.

As the RAK noted in a specific briefing in January 2021:

“Persons who have a national insurance number are registered in the Central Patient Index (Zentralen Patientenindex/ZPI) – even without a current e-card.”

“This also applies to persons who were once insured or co-insured in Austria. Therefore, they can be administered in the e-vaccination passport. Persons who do not appear in the ZPI receive an error message during identification. They can then only be documented on paper.”

Has Austria’s vaccination scheme impacted foreigners? 

From not providing information in languages other than German to failing to tackle a slew of conspiracy theories and incorrect information on social media, Austrian authorities’ vaccination strategy is failing the country’s sizeable foreign population. 

READ MORE: Is Austria’s vaccination strategy failing foreigners?

Judith Kohlenberger from the Institute for Social Policy at the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration told Wien Heute the country has adopted a “white, classically Austrian vaccination campaign”. 

Kohlenberger points out that the Österreich impft (Austria vaccinates) campaign features nobody obviously of a migrant background – unlike of course the vast majority of hospitals and medical centres where people who have contracted coronavirus are being cared for. 

“We just have to go to any hospital in Vienna, where the majority of nurses have a migration background. That would be good (to gather) testimonials to say, yes, we will be vaccinated,” she said. 

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ECONOMY

From inflation to Covid: What to expect from Austria’s winter season

Austria’s lucrative winter season has already been hit by pandemic restrictions for the past two years. But this year there is also record inflation, staff shortages and an energy crisis to deal with.

From inflation to Covid: What to expect from Austria's winter season

The winter season in Austria is a big driver of the country’s economy and has been hit hard by Covid-19 restrictions for the past two winters.

But this year the industry faces an even bigger crisis – a combination of rising inflation, concerns over energy supplies, staff shortages and the pandemic (because it’s not over yet).

We took a closer look to find out how these issues could impact the industry and what we could expect from this year’s winter season in Austria.

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Inflation

Winter sports is a big guzzler of energy to operate ski lifts, apres ski venues and snow making machines. 

This means the industry is in a vulnerable position as energy prices rise, with some resort operators already confirming they will have to pass on some costs to customers.

Johann Roth, Managing Director at Präbichl in Styria, said that energy costs at the resort have tripled and admitted he is concerned about the coming winter season.

Roth told the Kronen Zeitung: “Of course we will have to increase the ticket prices, and to an extent that has never been seen in recent years.”

READ MORE: Cost of living: Why are restaurants getting more expensive in Austria?

At Planai ski resort in Schladming, Styria, Director Georg Bliem said they aim to keep the day ticket price under €70, but has also set up an energy task force to find cost-saving measures for this year. 

Suggestions for Planai include narrower slopes, reduced snowmaking capabilities, shorter cable car operating times and even a delayed start to the season.

Electricity costs at Planaibahn (the resort’s ski lift and gondola operator) were already at €3 million before the current energy crisis, according to the Kronen Zeitung.

Then there are hospitality businesses and hotels at ski resorts that are also being hit by rising costs.

As a result, the Kurier reports that room prices in overnight accommodation could increase by a further 15 percent in winter, and many people will no longer be able to afford skiing holidays.

Heating may be an issue in winter as the energy crisis looms (Photo by Achudh Krishna on Unsplash)

Energy

Rising prices are just one element of the energy crisis as there are fears that Austria will not have enough gas for the coming winter season – mostly due to the war in Ukraine.

In March, Austria activated the early warning system – which is the first level of a three-step emergency plan – for the country’s gas supply. If it reaches step three (emergency level), energy control measures will be put in place across the country.

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How this would impact ski resorts is unknown, but at the emergency level, households, essential industries and infrastructure would be prioritised for energy.

So far, there is no indication that step two (alert level) will be activated and the European Aggregated Gas Storage Inventory recently confirmed that Austria’s gas storage capacity was 60 percent full

Austria’s goal is to reach 80 percent capacity by November 1st in order to have a safety reserve.

However, Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler already appealed to businesses and households in July to start saving energy where possible.

Staff shortages

Ever since Austria (and Europe) started opening up after Covid-19 lockdowns, the hospitality and tourism industries have been struggling to find staff.

In fact, shortly before the start of the summer season in Austria, there were 30,000 open job vacancies in the tourism sector. And the Wiener Zeitung recently reported on how restaurants in Vienna are struggling to keep up with customer demand due to staff shortages. 

READ NEXT: ‘We need immigration’: Austrian minister insists foreign workers are the only solution

The issue is even being discussed in parliament and it has already been made easier for seasonal workers in Austria to access residency through changes to the Red-White-Red card. 

Now, there are expectations of similar staff shortages for the winter season, which could cause further stress for ski resort operators.

Covid-19

Back in July, it was reported that the federal government was working on a Covid-19 contingency plan to get the country through another autumn and winter.

It envisages four scenarios – numbered from the best to the worst case. In the best case scenario, Austrians can live free of any pandemic rules. In the second best scenario, the situation will remain as it is (find out more about Austria’s latest Covid-19 rules here).

In scenario three, if new variants lead to more severe illness, the mask requirement will be expanded and more testing will be carried out.

READ MORE: REVEALED: The Covid-19 measures for the start of the Austrian school year

There could even be night-time curfews, entry tests and restrictions on private meetings. In addition, major events could be stopped from taking place and nightclubs closed.

Scenario four, the worst case scenario, would mean vaccination no longer offered protection and hospitals became overwhelmed, leading to severe restrictions on people’s social lives.

From what we’ve seen over the past two winters, scenarios three and four would likely impact winter sports operations. But to what degree would depend on the severity of the situation.

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