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Austria announces further easing of coronavirus measures in June and July

Austria will relax several coronavirus measures from in June and July including rules for masks, weddings, eating out and curfews. Here's what you need to know.

Restrictions on the number of people who can meet in a restaurant will be relaxed. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)
Restrictions on the number of people who can meet in a restaurant will be relaxed. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)
 
Austria has announced it will take steps to further relax existing measures from June 10th and then July 1st, with Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announcing he will keep the promise he made that there would be a “return to normal” in the summer.

Kurz said the progress in the vaccination campaign meant there was an “ideal basis” for the next opening steps.

 
Gatherings
 
From July 1st the group restrictions for celebrations such as weddings and birthdays will no longer apply. Currently, food and drink may not be served at weddings and a maximum of 50 people are allowed to attend. However, there will be obligation to notify the authorities for gatherings of 100 guests or more and to get authorisation for gatherings of 500 or more people. 
 

Masks

From June 10th, the mask mandate will be relaxed for outdoor areas for people who have been vaccinated, have tested negative all those who have recently recovered from the virus.

Masks have been required in outdoor areas where the mandatory two-metre distance has been difficult to maintain, for example at protests or in public spaces where large amounts of people congregate.

The mask requirement will remain in retail, schools and on public transport for the time being. Discussions are ongoing over whether the FFP2 mask requirement can be replaced by mouth and nose protection.
 
 
Curfew
 
The curfew will be moved from 10pm to midnight on June 10th. This means people in Austria will be able to watch European Football Championship games in bars from June 11th. 
 
Retail, leisure and cultural venues
 
On June 10th the maximum occupancy of cultural venues will be increased to 75 percent (previously it was 50 percent). The ten-square-meter rule per person now applies in the leisure, sports and wellness sectors, allowing more people to use facilities at once. In retail, too, will be reduced from 20 to ten square meters per customer, meaning more people can enter shops.
From July 1st full occupancy at cultural and sporting venues will be possible both inside and outside.
 
 
Border rules
 
Pre-travel clearance will only be required if you are coming from a high-risk area. Discussions are ongoing over how to reduce traffic jams at Austria’s border crossings.
 
 
Restaurants

 
From June 10th, the mandatory closing time for restaurants will be increase from 10pm to midnight.
In addition, the number of people who may sit at a table will be doubled from four to eight people inside and up to 16 adults outdoors in the restaurant.
 
From July 1st there will also no longer any be any restrictions on group sizes in restaurants, pubs and cafes, but you will still have to provide evidence of having been vaccinated, recovered from or tested negative for Covid-19 to go there.

READ MORE: ‘3G Rule’: How to prove you have been vaccinated, tested or recovered from Covid in Austria

Clubs 

Discos and clubs are expected to reopen from 1st July. 

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ECONOMY

From inflation to Covid: What to expect from Austria’s winter season

Austria’s lucrative winter season has already been hit by pandemic restrictions for the past two years. But this year there is also record inflation, staff shortages and an energy crisis to deal with.

From inflation to Covid: What to expect from Austria's winter season

The winter season in Austria is a big driver of the country’s economy and has been hit hard by Covid-19 restrictions for the past two winters.

But this year the industry faces an even bigger crisis – a combination of rising inflation, concerns over energy supplies, staff shortages and the pandemic (because it’s not over yet).

We took a closer look to find out how these issues could impact the industry and what we could expect from this year’s winter season in Austria.

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Inflation

Winter sports is a big guzzler of energy to operate ski lifts, apres ski venues and snow making machines. 

This means the industry is in a vulnerable position as energy prices rise, with some resort operators already confirming they will have to pass on some costs to customers.

Johann Roth, Managing Director at Präbichl in Styria, said that energy costs at the resort have tripled and admitted he is concerned about the coming winter season.

Roth told the Kronen Zeitung: “Of course we will have to increase the ticket prices, and to an extent that has never been seen in recent years.”

READ MORE: Cost of living: Why are restaurants getting more expensive in Austria?

At Planai ski resort in Schladming, Styria, Director Georg Bliem said they aim to keep the day ticket price under €70, but has also set up an energy task force to find cost-saving measures for this year. 

Suggestions for Planai include narrower slopes, reduced snowmaking capabilities, shorter cable car operating times and even a delayed start to the season.

Electricity costs at Planaibahn (the resort’s ski lift and gondola operator) were already at €3 million before the current energy crisis, according to the Kronen Zeitung.

Then there are hospitality businesses and hotels at ski resorts that are also being hit by rising costs.

As a result, the Kurier reports that room prices in overnight accommodation could increase by a further 15 percent in winter, and many people will no longer be able to afford skiing holidays.

Heating may be an issue in winter as the energy crisis looms (Photo by Achudh Krishna on Unsplash)

Energy

Rising prices are just one element of the energy crisis as there are fears that Austria will not have enough gas for the coming winter season – mostly due to the war in Ukraine.

In March, Austria activated the early warning system – which is the first level of a three-step emergency plan – for the country’s gas supply. If it reaches step three (emergency level), energy control measures will be put in place across the country.

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How this would impact ski resorts is unknown, but at the emergency level, households, essential industries and infrastructure would be prioritised for energy.

So far, there is no indication that step two (alert level) will be activated and the European Aggregated Gas Storage Inventory recently confirmed that Austria’s gas storage capacity was 60 percent full

Austria’s goal is to reach 80 percent capacity by November 1st in order to have a safety reserve.

However, Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler already appealed to businesses and households in July to start saving energy where possible.

Staff shortages

Ever since Austria (and Europe) started opening up after Covid-19 lockdowns, the hospitality and tourism industries have been struggling to find staff.

In fact, shortly before the start of the summer season in Austria, there were 30,000 open job vacancies in the tourism sector. And the Wiener Zeitung recently reported on how restaurants in Vienna are struggling to keep up with customer demand due to staff shortages. 

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The issue is even being discussed in parliament and it has already been made easier for seasonal workers in Austria to access residency through changes to the Red-White-Red card. 

Now, there are expectations of similar staff shortages for the winter season, which could cause further stress for ski resort operators.

Covid-19

Back in July, it was reported that the federal government was working on a Covid-19 contingency plan to get the country through another autumn and winter.

It envisages four scenarios – numbered from the best to the worst case. In the best case scenario, Austrians can live free of any pandemic rules. In the second best scenario, the situation will remain as it is (find out more about Austria’s latest Covid-19 rules here).

In scenario three, if new variants lead to more severe illness, the mask requirement will be expanded and more testing will be carried out.

READ MORE: REVEALED: The Covid-19 measures for the start of the Austrian school year

There could even be night-time curfews, entry tests and restrictions on private meetings. In addition, major events could be stopped from taking place and nightclubs closed.

Scenario four, the worst case scenario, would mean vaccination no longer offered protection and hospitals became overwhelmed, leading to severe restrictions on people’s social lives.

From what we’ve seen over the past two winters, scenarios three and four would likely impact winter sports operations. But to what degree would depend on the severity of the situation.

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