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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

EXPLAINED: What is Austria’s Covid-19 immunity card and how do I get it?

Here's what you need to know about Austria's digital coronavirus immunity card

EXPLAINED: What is Austria's Covid-19 immunity card and how do I get it?
How do you get Austria's Covid-19 pass? Photo by Piero Cruciatti / AFP

The digital version of the immunity card, nicknamed ‘green pass’ after a similar idea in Israel, will be introduced in early June. 

It will be based on a QR code and can either be printed or carried on your mobile phone or similar device. 

In mid-August, Austria made its green pass app available in English as well as German. Here’s what you need to know about the pass in English

Here’s what you need to know. 

What is the digital immunity card?

The card will allow special privileges for people who have been fully vaccinated, as well as those who have had the virus recently and who have tested negative. 

In effect, it is a uniform digitalisation of the existing 3G Rule, which has been in place since May 19th. 

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

While the project has also been in development at a European level, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is one of its major advocates. 

But wait, is this green pass the same as the immunity card? 

Yes. The Austrian government and the Austrian media have used a number of different terms to describe the pass, including green pass, Covid-19 pass, Covid passport, coronavirus immunity passport and immunity card, among others. 

These terms along with a range of others have been used in the international media. 

While the cards have two components – both domestic and international – there is in effect one card or pass which will signify your immunity and will allow you to do a range of things including visiting restaurants and travelling. 

Digital card to be introduced in early June

Austria’s Covid digital green pass using a QR code was implemented in June. 

READ MORE: Bars and restaurants face €3,600 fines for not checking tests

Previously, people could show their immunity through paper documentation. 

The green pass will not be compulsory, the Austrian government has confirmed

Immunised people not included in pass initially

To start with, the pass initially did not include an option for vaccinated people, however this has since changed. 

As of July 1st, vaccinated people are included in the framework, along with those who have recovered from the virus and those who have tested negative. 

What about for travel?

The Ministry also confirmed the digital green pass will be valid across the EU from July 1st.

This will enable travel in EU countries and will need to be shown at the border.

In addition, it may also allow for certain domestic privileges in other countries in a manner similar to that in Austria. 

The Austrian government says it expects the green pass to be valid for international travel “only for the duration of the pandemic”, i.e. that it will not become a permanent requirement. 

What does it allow you to do?

Austria’s Covid-19 health pass, known as the “green pass”, is needed to access bars, restaurants, hotels, hairdressers, gyms, events and a range of other venues. 

For entering nightclubs, you need to be either vaccinated or have received a negative PCR test in the past 72 hours. This information will also be included in your green pass. 

As of July 1st, masks are not required anywhere that the green pass is required.

In effect, this means masks are required in public transport, supermarkets and museums, as the green pass is not necessary to enter these areas. 

A full official list of where the pass is required – and where it is not – can be found here. 

How do I get it?

The first step will be to find a way to show immunity, i.e. through vaccination, recovery or a negative test. In each case, you will be issued with a certificate or some form of paperwork that confirms your immunity. 

More information on getting that proof can be found at this link

READ MORE: How foreign residents in Austria are struggling to get a Covid-19 immunity pass

Once you have proof of immunity, you can access your green pass using a mobile phone signature or citizen card. These are available at www.gesundheit.gv.at.

You can activate your citizen card or mobile phone signature by visiting FinanzOnline at this link

Select ‘Bürgerkarte/Handy-Signature aktivieren’ (activate citizen card/mobile phone signature) and you will receive a letter of approval in the mail in the coming days. 

In order to get the Handysignature, you will need to have an Austrian mobile phone number. 

In Vienna, the government has set up a way of getting the pass without a Handysignature, which can be viewed at the following link. 

READ MORE: How to get Austria’s green pass without a ‘Handysignature’ in Vienna

The next step is to download the app, from which you can scan your evidence of vaccination, recovery or a negative test. 

The Grüner Pass app can be used offline, thereby allowing for it to be scanned when travelling or when data/wifi is not available. 

The app is now available via Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store , as well as the Huawei App Gallery.

What data is stored in the app?

One concern among readers has been the amount of information which is stored on the app – and whether this is available to those who scan it. 

Firstly, all relevant information is stored in the app itself – i.e. it is not stored in a centralised fashion or available on the cloud. This means it cannot be hacked or made widely available. 

The app itself stores the person’s first and last names, their vaccination status and information about the vaccine they received, along with a QR code which can be used as part of the EU’s travel pass system. 

What about those checking the app? 

In order to make it easier to carry out checks, the Austrian government has set up a website to help bar and restaurant owners. 

Known as GreenCheck, it can be downloaded to mobile phones and tablets. All that is needed is that they have a functional camera. 

The GreenCheck app can then check people’s Grüner Pass apps to see if they are compliant. 

The app does not transmit any personal data, or information about the vaccine they had (or whether they are recovered or have tested negative). 

In addition, the GreenCheck app can be used offline, making it easier for venue owners to carry out the checks if there is no wifi/data connection. 

The app was developed by Austria’s Federal Computing Centre (BEZ) under the legal framework established for the green pass. 

How do I get an e-card or a social security number in order to get the green pass? 

Some readers have reported difficulties getting the green pass without an e-card or a social security number. 

Normally, the e-card will be sent to you automatically by your health insurance provider by post. 

Reader question: Do I need my e-card to get vaccinated in Austria?

If you do not already have an e-card or social security number, fortunately these are not difficult to get. 

You can apply for an e-card for the purpose of vaccination or to get the Covid-19 green pass at the ELGA website here, provided you have a current photo. 

You can also apply in person at the service points of the Austrian Health Insurance Fund (Österreichische Gesundheitskasse), which can be found here

More information is available here, or by reading our following explainer. 

What is Austria’s e-card? Everything you need to know

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For members

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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