Austria to wind back quarantine rules on May 19th

Austria is set to relax its strict coronavirus quarantine on May 19th for most EU countries, making summer travel easier both for people wanting to visit Austria as well as Austrians returning home.

An arrivals board in the airport. Austria will relax quarantine measures on most arrivals from mid-May. Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash
An arrivals board in the airport. Austria will relax quarantine measures on most arrivals from mid-May. Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

NOTE: For an updated summary of Austria’s entry rules in place after May 19th, please click the following link. 

Austria’s nationwide relaxation of the coronavirus lockdown measures on May 19th will include its strict quarantine. 

READ MORE: Austria to relax most coronavirus measures on May 19th

Austrian media reports that the quarantine obligation – which currently requires almost all arrivals in Austria to quarantine for ten or 14 days (depending on the state) – will be relaxed for arrivals from almost all EU countries. 

UPDATED: Which countries are now on Austria’s quarantine list?

The likely exceptions are to include high-incidence countries or regions, or areas where virus variants are particularly prevalent. 

How will the relaxation of quarantine rules work? 

As yet, this has not been finalised – with Austrian media reporting that the government is unlikely to put in place a free for all, i.e. the situation before the coronavirus pandemic. 

Instead, the scheme is likely to be based around the EU health agency ECDC’s traffic light system, which differentiates between areas depending on the prevalence of coronavirus infections. 

For countries coloured green or orange, entry is likely to be allowed unfettered, according to Austria’s Der Standard newspaper.  

When a country is coloured light red, negative coronavirus tests or proof of vaccination or recovery from the virus are likely to be required. 

UPDATED: Everything you need to know about Austria’s quarantine rules

Travellers from dark red areas will need to comply with a ten-day quarantine obligation, with the possibility of leaving quarantine after the fifth day. 

This system therefore resembles that which is currently in place federally (with some states having expanded the scheme to 14 days). 

It is as yet unclear as to whether Austria would adopt a system which places entire countries on a risk list, or would do this on a regional basis. 

What does that mean now? 

While looking at the current infection rates and making a decision on travelling on May 19th is like deciding to go swimming in a month based on today’s weather, there are several countries which currently sit below the threshold. 

This includes Italy, Spain, Greece, Iceland, Portugal, Malta and Finland. 

Germany – the country from which the most people arrive in Austria – would also fall. 

However, arrivals from France, Sweden, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia and Lithuania would still need to quarantine. 

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Austria in shock over doctor’s suicide following anti-vax abuse

Austrians expressed shock and anger this week over the suicide of doctor who had been the target of a torrent of abuse and threats from anti-vaccination protesters.

Austria in shock over doctor's suicide following anti-vax abuse

The bells of Vienna’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral rang out in memory of Lisa-Maria Kellermayr on Monday, and hundreds of people held a candle vigil outside, after the 36-year-old doctor was found dead at her practice on July 29.

She had long been the target of death threats because of her criticism of the widespread anti-lockdown protests of 2021.

An autopsy later confirmed that Kellermayr had taken her own life.

Austria has found itself deeply polarised over coronavirus restrictions and in particular a government policy –subsequently dropped — of making vaccination against the coronavirus compulsory.

Kellermayr — whose practice was in the region of Upper Austria where immunisation rates are particularly low — had frequently complained of the menace.

“For more than seven months, we have been receiving… death threats from those opposed to coronavirus measures and vaccinations,” she wrote at the time, sharing a message from one internet user who said they would pose as a patient in order to attack her and her staff.

She described how she had “invested more than 100,000 euros” ($102,000) in measures to ensure her patients’ safety and was on the brink of bankruptcy.

Then, at the end of June, Kellermayr announced on her professional website that she would not be seeing patients until further notice.

Daniel Landau, who organised a memorial vigil for her in Vienna, said that Kellermayr had become a virtual recluse for several weeks. “She didn’t dare to leave” her office, Landau told AFP.

Fanning the aggression

On Saturday, the head of Austria’s doctors’ association, Johannes Steinhart, said that while aggressive behaviour towards medical staff was not new, it had been “fired up and noticeably aggravated” by the debate over Covid-19 and vaccines.

The police, who had previously suggested Kellermayr was exploiting the situation for attention, insist they did everything to protect her. The local prosecutor’s office also rejected suggestions it could have done more.

“As soon as we received the police report (identifying one of the suspects), we sent it over to the relevant authorities in Germany,” spokesman Christoph Weber said.

On Friday, prosecutors in the neighbouring German state of Bavaria said a 59-year-old suspect was being investigated by a specialist hate speech unit.

At the beginning of the week, Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen visited the small town of Seewalchen where Kellermayr lived to lay flowers in her memory.

After news of her death broke, he had appealed to Austrians to “put an end to intimidation and fear”.

‘They’re gagging us’

But on some Telegram groups, the hateful messages continue.

“Some people are celebrating her death; others believe the vaccine killed her,” said Ingrid Brodnig, a journalist and author who investigates online disinformation.

“Stricts laws exist” already against online hate, but not enough is done to implement them, Brodnig said.

One government minister has floated the idea of a separate prosecutor’s office to target such cases. Doctors and researchers have also been targeted elsewhere.

French infectious disease specialist, Karine Lacombe, described how she had been vilified for her work as part of a collective of doctors combatting coronavirus-related disinformation.

She, too, complained that the response from the authorities in the face of threats was not robust enough, and has scaled down her public appearances this year.

“You end up thinking that the risk isn’t worth it,” she told AFP. “In that sense (the aggressors) have won, they are gagging us,” she said.