Austria’s easing of border restrictions leads to chaos at Vienna airport

Austria's easing of border restrictions has led to chaos at Vienna airport as well as long tailbacks or cars at land border crossings.

Landed passengers with face masks at Vienna Airport in Schwechat. (ALEX HALADA/ AFP)
People arriving at Vienna Airport complained of crowds and queues at the border (Michael Maccabez)

Austria’s border opening has resulted in passengers complaining of being crushed and experiencing “hell” at Vienna’s Schwechat airport.

Elsewhere there has also been delays at Austria’s road borders due to the increased number of people travelling and the corresponding checks.

The quarantine requirement has been lifted for people crossing the border into Austria, but visitors must show they have been vaccinated, recovered or tested negative for the coronavirus. 

The Ministry of Health responded to the reports of airport queues on Wednesday with a new decree, effective immediately. This means that the Bruck an der Leitha district authority now has the option of only carrying out random checks at the airport if there are long queues.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: The new rules for entering Austria

Schwechat Airport spokesman Peter Kleemann told broadcaster ORF on Wednesday that the “crush” at the weekend was not a permanent problem, but would be resolved once the EU’s internationally valid “green pass” is introduced – this is expected to happen by July. 

READ MORE: What’s the latest on the EU covid passports and how will they work in practice?

Spot checks do not apply to “risk countries”

Passengers from risk countries, currently defined as Brazil, India, South Africa and the UK,  still have to be checked in full. However, for all other countries random checks are now sufficient, for example for passengers who want to travel from Germany.

Roads also busy at border crossings

The roads were also crowded last Friday, with queuing traffic at the border points at Walserberg (A8 / A1), the Karawanken tunnel (A11), Spielfeld (A9) and Nickelsdorf (A4). 

The Salzburg-Walserberg border crossings on the A1 and the crossing on the B1 were also affected as well as the Kufstein-Kiefersfelden motorway border crossing in Tyrol, which is becoming a bottleneck for crossing the border from or to Germany.

In Styria, there were also long waiting times at the Spielfeld border, and last Friday it took more than an hour to enter Austria at the border crossings of Kittsee, Berg, Drasenhofen and Kleinhaugsdorf.

Border controls lifted with Czech Republic and Slovakia

Austria lifted temporary reintroduction of border controls with the Czech Republic and Slovakia last Saturday. 

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Austria’s beaches ‘second cleanest in Europe’

Bathing waters at more than four out of five beaches in the European Union are of "excellent" quality, with Cyprus, Austria and Greece topping a European Environment Agency list published on Tuesday.

Austria's beaches 'second cleanest in Europe'
A man carries a paddle board on the dock of a hotel in Grundlsee. Photo: BARBARA GINDL / APA / AFP

A total of 82.8 percent of the 22,276 bathing sites studied across Europe in 2020 had “excellent” water quality, while 92.6 percent met the minimum standard, “sufficient”.

These figures are about two percentage points below those for 2019, the EEA said, attributing it to a greater number of beaches where no data was collected last year due to the pandemic.

The lack of data mainly affected Poland and Britain, which is still included in the report for 2020 despite Brexit.

Water quality continues to improve in Europe, with only 1.3 percent of sites reporting “poor” water quality, compared to 1.4 percent in 2019 and almost 2 percent in 2013.

READ MORE: Austrians world’s best at baring all on the beach

Under EU rules, bathing water sites that have been classified as “poor” for five consecutive years are slapped with a permanent ban.

Cyprus was the only country to register a perfect score in the 2020 standings, with 100 percent of its bathing sites boasting “excellent” water quality, ahead of Austria (97.7 pct), Greece (97.1 pct), Malta (96.6 pct) and Croatia (95.1 pct).

They were followed by Germany (89.9 pct), Italy (88.6 pct), Spain (88.5 pct), Belgium (79.7 pct) and France (77.5 pct).

Around two-thirds of bathing sites in the EU are located along sea coasts, which are generally cleaner, and one third are located inland.

According to the EEA, the percentage of European bathing waters achieving at least “sufficient” quality increased from just 74 percent in 1991 to over 95 percent in 2003, and has remained relatively stable since then.

The number of bathing sites in the European Union has nearly quadrupled in the past 30 years due to the expansion of the EU and the growth of the tourism and leisure industry.