Austria to open up mid May, but will the ‘Green Passport’ and Vienna be ready?

Austria to open up mid May, but will the 'Green Passport' and Vienna be ready?
(Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)
On Friday, Austria's opening commission will meet to decide on the country's next steps. Chancellor Kurz has pledged the whole country will open up in mid May, and it is rumoured 17th May will be the date.

The plan is to open up Austria in connection with a “green passport”, an app with a QR code which can be scanned to indicate if someone is recovered from, vaccinated against or has recently tested negative for the coronavirus.

Those who possess the passport will be entitled to certain privileges, from attending events to travelling.

However, it is expected the earliest possible date the green pass can start is 25th May, unless there is a way to bypass the Bundesrat (Parliament), which managed to block the legislation needed for the pass last month. 

READ MORE: Austria to delay green passport and testing for shopping

The app could be similar to the “corona pass” already successfully being used in Denmark. 

READ MORE: It’s a very special day, Denmark reacts to reopening of cafes, restaurants and museums

Both the Chamber of Commerce and unions are urging for further openings. 

But not everyone is so confident it will be possible.

Only ‘cautious optimism’ from Vienna’s mayor

The Mayor of Vienna, Michael Ludwig told OE24 that he would not make a decision on whether to open restaurants and events in Vienna until next week, due to the high numbers of people in intensive care.

Currently 211 patients are in the capital’s hospitals, out of 561 nationwide. 

According to OE24’s print newspaper, Salzburg’s Mayor is pushing for a 13th May opening date, while Vienna’s Mayor would prefer to wait until 25th May to open up, which suggests 17th May could be a compromise.

Mayor Ludwig also said he was only “cautiously optimistic” that the lockdown which has been in place since the beginning of April would bring down the numbers enough.

The decision will be made before 2nd May, he promised the newspaper, to give people time to plan ahead. 

Will customers be able to play chess and drink coffee inside the Cafe Prueckel in Vienna,  in May? Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP

Mayor Ludwig is quoted as saying he will only open up as much in Vienna as is responsible, indicating he may consider opening outdoor gastronomy first. And he also hints at problems with “social partners” over the plans to introduce a test requirement for restaurant terraces.

One factor in his decision making could be that Chamber of Commerce trade chairman Rainer Trefelik told Der Standard newspaper on Tuesday neither the population or companies would support any further lockdown in Lower Austria and Vienna past 3rd May, requirement for catering. 

People enjoy a bike ride on the shores of the Danube river in Vienna  (Photo by ALEXANDER KLEIN / AFP)

Testing requirement for outside dining ‘raising concerns’

Der Standard newspaper also reported last week that the government would abandon its plan to introduce a testing requirement for retail, after the trade association, Chamber of Commerce and trade union all opposed it.

The paper also reported there were also concerns from industry representatives over testing for access for restaurants’ outside terraces, though the principle for testing for indoor dining was accepted. 

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The paper cited the example of people on a bike ride, who wanted to stop and grab a snack and a drink outside, saying in this instance, it was hard to see how a “green passport” would work. 

Mario Pulker, head of catering at the Chamber of Commerce, said asking people to show a “green passport” to use outside terraces could mean food retailers were given an unfair advantage, and suggested a fast “lollipop” antigen test could be used instead at the door. 

‘Lollipop tests’: Austria starts coronavirus testing in kindergartens

If indoor dining does resume in mid May, it is expected only half the restaurant’s capacity will be used, and a curfew of 21:00 will remain in place. 

Likewise, cultural venues such as opera houses and theatres are expected only to re-open at half capacity and with a mask requirement, although museums are expected to open at the beginning of May along with non-essential retail. 

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Hotels are expected to open only to local guests, as long as travel warnings are still in place, with a testing requirement. 

Amateur sport such as football should also be allowed once more from mid-May and later in the year sports stadiums will open, with the Austria vs Slovakia match expected to go ahead on 6th June, along with the Grand-Prix in Spielberg on the 4th July, assuming the “green passport” is in operation by then.


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