Lockdown loosening in Austria: All eyes on Vorarlberg as restaurants open

The western Austrian state of Vorarlberg is set to open pubs and restaurants for outdoor - and indoor - dining from today. If it's successful, Austria will adopt the same plan.

Lockdown loosening in Austria: All eyes on Vorarlberg as restaurants open
Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

From Monday, March 15th, the Austrian state of Vorarlberg is set to loosen some coronavirus measures in a pilot project. 

If the project is successful and infection rates remain low, it will be adopted to allow restaurants and events again across the rest of Austria. 

Restrictions will be lifted on restaurants, while events and children’s sport will again be allowed. 

The openings will be facilitated by comprehensive testing requirements. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

What measures will be relaxed? 

Events with up to 100 people will again be allowed. 

Indoor as well as outdoor dining will also be allowed. 

Events can also take place either indoors or outdoors, however rooms must be at half of their usual capacity. 

Sports for children and teenagers (up until the age of 18) will also again be allowed to take place, with clubs free to open from Monday. 

Can just anyone visit a restaurant or an event? 

People visiting restaurants will be required to show a recent negative test. 

This can be a PCR, an antigen test or a self-test. 

Evidence of a self-test will be allowed in digital form.

More than one million self tests have been ordered and will be distributed around the state by Monday. 

How fresh must the test be?

Antigen or self-tests made at a pharmacy or medical centre must have been made within the past 48 hours. 

PCR tests, as they are more accurate, can be up to 72 hours old. 

The ‘at home’ self tests are only valid for 24 hours. 

It will be the responsibility of the restaurant to ensure that each person has evidence of a negative test. 

What restrictions remain in place? 

The 8pm curfew will remain, meaning evening meals or events will not be possible, according to APA. 

A maximum of four people will be allowed to sit at a table in a restaurant if they are not from the same household. 

Weddings are expressly not allowed to take place. 

Other rules such as keeping two metres distance, wearing FFP2 masks, mandatory registration 

Why Vorarlberg? 

Vorarlberg has for a long period of time had the lowest infection rate in Austria.

On Monday, March 15th, the value is still lowest in Vorarlberg (67.5) of any Austrian state, followed by Tyrol (133.3).

According to the Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES), the 7-day incidence or the number of new infections with the coronavirus in the past seven days per 100,000 inhabitants across the country is 209. 

The number is highest in Salzburg (265.8) and Vienna (259.5). 

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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”