Austria to extend coronavirus lockdown measures

Austria on Monday decided to extend its coronavirus lockdown until after Easter.

Austria to extend coronavirus lockdown measures
Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

Leaders of state and federal governments met in Vienna on Monday to discuss the country’s coronavirus lockdown plans. 

The government announced late on Monday that planned relaxations of lockdown measures from Saturday, March 27th, would not go ahead. 

The existing lockdown measures will remain in place across the country until at least after Easter. 

However, from April onwards, Austria will adopt a regional approach which allows certain regions with lower infection rates and hospitalisations to open up. 

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

The announcement will not affect the western state of Vorarlberg, where a range of lockdown measures were relaxed on March 15th. 

Contrary to previous reports, Austria did not put in place any specific loosening of the measures for the Easter period.

Austrian media had reported in the lead up to the announcement that the government may adopt temporary relaxations to the rules to allow Easter gatherings, however these appear to have been rejected by the government. 

The government indicated that infection rates and hospitalisations were too high at the present moment to allow a relaxation of the measures. 

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

What is the current situation in Austria?

In Austria, the number of occupied intensive care beds is now around 400. This corresponds to a little more than 40 percent of the total available capacity.

According to calculations by the experts, this number will rise to 515 by the end of March.

This may not seem so bad. However, looking at the national picture is slightly misleading, as there are big differences between the east of Austria and the west.

In the east, hospitals are getting close to the levels seen last autumn, when Austria went into its second lockdown.

MAPS: Where are Austria’s hospitals under the most pressure?

In Vienna, ICU beds are at their highest rate of occupancy since the pandemic begun.

In Austria, the seven-day incidence is over 230, rising to over 300 in the east. 

However, even in Vienna (314), politicians are calling for pub gardens and restaurant terraces to open.  

Neighbouring Germany is discussing lockdown measures until after Easter because its seven-day incidence, or the number of new infections per 100,000 people over a seven day period, has now exceeded 100.

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Reader question: Do I need to wear a mask on flights to/from Austria?

The EU has eased recommendations for face masks on flights and in airports, but member states are free to put their own rules in place.

Reader question: Do I need to wear a mask on flights to/from Austria?

Since Monday, May 16th, it is no longer mandatory to wear a medical-grade face mask on flights and at airports within the EU.

But Austria will continue with the rule for now, meaning that masks are required on flights to Austria.

The implementation of the EU recommendation is based on the national rules in individual countries. 

For flights, where a destination country has a mask rule in place, then masks must be worn. 

An Austrian Airlines spokesperson told the Kronen Zeitung: “The easing of the mask requirement is an EU recommendation that must be reflected in a national regulation in order to also apply in Austria.” 

The aviation safety agency EASA and the EU health authority ECDC states that if masks are mandatory on public transport at the point of departure or at the destination, then the regulation should also continue on board the aircraft.

According to current Austrian Covid-19 regulations, wearing an FFP2 mask is still required in hospitals, elderly and nursing homes, public transport (including stops and stations), taxis, customer areas of vital trade, such as supermarkets, and administrative buildings.

READ MORE: LATEST: What are Austria’s current Covid-19 rules

In addition to Austria, masks are still compulsory in some public areas in Germany, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy – all key tourism destinations for travellers from Austria.