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COVID-19

EXPLAINED: How the new lockdown for Vienna and eastern Austria affects you

From April 1st until at least April 6th, the eastern Austrian states of Vienna, Lower Austria and Burgenland will go into a strict coronavirus lockdown to tackle rising infection rates and hospitalisations. Here’s how the lockdown will affect you.

EXPLAINED: How the new lockdown for Vienna and eastern Austria affects you
Photo: Ina FASSBENDER / AFP

Please note: this has since been extended again. Click here for more information. 

On Wednesday evening, the government – along with representatives from the three eastern states – outlined nine measures which would be put in place as part of the tightened lockdown from April 1st. 

Some are set to expire on April 6th, while others will continue for the foreseeable future. 

The announcement was made on Wednesday evening at a press conference by Health Minister Rudolf Anschober together with Governors Michael Ludwig (Vienna), Johanna Mikl-Leitner (Lower Austria) and Hans-Peter Doskozil (Burgenland).

READ MORE: Vienna, Lower Austria and Burgenland to re-enter strict coronavirus lockdown

The announcement had been delayed due to disagreements over the measures that should come into place, with government officials holding a three-day meeting. 

The exact measures are as follows. 

Stay at home order

A 24-hour stay at home order will come into effect from April 1st, whereby you can only leave the house for certain exceptions. 

This is expected to expire on April 6th, although it may be continued if infection rates and hospitalisations remain high. 

More information as to when you can leave your house is available at the following link. 

Austria’s coronavirus lockdown: Under what circumstances can I leave my apartment?

Closure of service providers

Close contact services – known in Austria as ‘body hugging services’ – like hairdressers, tattoo parlours and cosmetic services will be closed from April 1st until April 6th. 

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

Closure of non-essential shops

Non-essential shops (i.e. retail) will be forced to close. Only supermarkets and pharmacies will be allowed to open from April 1st until the 6th. 

FFP2 masks outside

FFP2 masks will be required outdoors wherever crowds form outdoors. This can be on streets or in public places. 

FFP2 masks have been required in supermarkets, train stations and other publicly accessible indoor places in Austria since January. 

EXPLAINED: Why is Austria making FFP2 masks mandatory?

FFP2 masks will also be required in indoor settings where more than one person is present, i.e. offices. 

No, you will not have to wear an FFP2 mask at home. 

More testing for cross-border commuters

Commuters (i.e. workers) who travel in and out of risk areas must be tested twice per week. 

Risk areas have been declared all over Austria over the past few weeks due to rising infection rates (such as in Wiener Neustadt) or a high prevalence of variants of the virus (Tyrol). 

This also applies to people commuting from abroad to work, i.e. from the Czech Republic and from Slovakia and Hungary. 

Working from home

Companies are to ask employees to work from home or be tested at least once per week during this time. 

This does not however amount to a mandatory working from home requirement, as had been previously reported before the announcement was made. 

Distance learning for schools 

Schools will go to distance learning after the Easter break (i.e. no face-to-face lessons) until the 9th of April. 

Schools will start again on the 11th of April with face-to-face lessons. 

People walk along the “Am Kohlmarkt” luxury shopping street in downtown Vienna on December 3, 2020, as shops are closed due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown.  (Photo by AFP)

Negative tests required to visit shops – when they open again

If retail opens again on April 7th – which is by no means certain and depends on infections and hospitalisations – people will need to show evidence of a negative test to go into non-essential stores. 

This is likely to be in a similar fashion to the existing ‘entry tests’ for visiting hairdressers and the like in Austria – a rule which has been in place since February 8th. 

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

May I leave my Austrian state? 

Yes.

There are no restrictions on travelling to other states as part of the rules, provided your reason for leaving the house is sufficient under the measures. 

What does this mean for the rest of Austria? 

Anschober said that the measures may be extended across the country if infections continue to rise.  

“Eastern Austria is a pilot region, it could easily be the same in other federal states.”

Will this really end on the 6th? 

Not necessarily – in fact, things could get a little stricter. 

Ludwig told the press that if these measures did not work in curbing rising infection rates and hospitalisations, an extended lockdown would be imposed. 

“If we don’t see results in a timely manner, we will have to go beyond this package,” says the Mayor of Vienna Michael Ludwig. 

“Eastern Austria is much more confronted with the ‘British variant’, which is also related to the neighbouring countries Slovakia and the Czech Republic, where the variant is widespread. Vorarlberg is doing better there, the British variant is currently less widespread in Switzerland and Germany”, said Ludwig.

“Until now we believed that school is less affected. We now see it differently. Not everyone should go back to school immediately, the risk of infection there is very high,” says Ludwig. 

 

Member comments

  1. Nice of the Government to give everyone enough warning so that can get out before April 1. These measures will change nothing, too little too late. The Austrian Government is a complete shambles. The have consistently implanted half measures that do little other than extend the lockdown period, and cause more harm than good. A complete country wide lockdown like we had this time last year, should have been put in place back in November, its too late now, people are tired and just don’t give a shit anymore. My belief is that the Government was counting on Vaccinations to be their saving grace, and the EU stuffed that up with their mountains of bureaucracy.

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COVID-19 ALERT

‘The pandemic is not over’: Vienna keeps mask rule in public transport

Austria's capital has decided to keep mandatory FFP2 masks in public transport but is dropping them in supermarkets.

'The pandemic is not over': Vienna keeps mask rule in public transport

Austria’s capital Vienna will still have mandatory usage of FFP2 masks even if the federal government is dropping the requirement in the rest of the country.

It will still be mandatory in Vienna to wear masks when public transport, pharmacies, doctors’ offices, and hospitals, SPÖ Mayor Michael Ludwig announced this Tuesday.

People no longer will need to wear masks in supermarkets and other essential trade, though. The decision was taken after a meeting with the city crisis committee and health authorities, according to the mayor.

“The pandemic is not over yet. We will remain on the consistent and safe path”, Ludwig said.

Earlier this Tuesday, Austria’s Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) had announced the country would “pause” mask requirements from June 1st in all but health establishments during the summer months, as reported.

READ ALSO: Austria to ‘pause’ Covid mask mandate from June 1st

Rauch justified the decision by saying that the coronavirus numbers, both of new infections and of hospitalised people, have significantly dropped and maintained a downwards trend for weeks.

“The number of new infections has fallen, as well as the number of people in hospitals due to Covid-19, for several weeks now. This is good news”, he said.

Since the last major easing step in mid-April, the FFP2 obligation has only been in force in enclosed spaces of hospitals and homes, public transport and taxis, in the customer area of vital trade, in party traffic of administrative authorities and in institutions for the practice of religion outside trade fairs.

However, the federal government sets out the minimum standard for the country, but the different states may adopt stricter measures. Vienna has often kept tougher regulations during the pandemic, including a more extended period when only vaccinated or recovered people were allowed in bars and restaurants.

Vaccination campaign

The Viennese mayor also commented on the suspended vaccine mandate law, stating that vaccination protects and the city would have a “corresponding vaccination campaign soon”.

Ludwig added that he would demand the same from the federal government. “All of this is done to protect the health of the Viennese population”, he said.

Austria this Tuesday reported 2,177 new coronavirus infections after 185,230 PCR tests, according to the Health Ministry. Currently, there are 596 people hospitalised with Covid-19 and 57 in intensive care units.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 18,607 people have died from Covid-19 in the country.

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