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FFP2 mask requirement in Austria: What is changing in July?

FFP2 mask requirement in Austria: What is changing in July?
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP
Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) has promised a relaxation of the FFP2 mask requirement from July 1st, but what does it mean?

From July 1st, Kurz has said the requirement to wear an FFP2 mask in many public places will be relaxed. 

A mouth and nose covering will still be required for public transport and in essential retail shops, like supermarkets and pharmacies, but cloth masks can be worn instead of an FFP2 mask.

FFP2 masks will no longer be required anywhere, even in hospitals or nursing homes. 

The one exception is in Vienna, where FFP2 masks will be required in hospitals and nursing homes

The announcement follows the reopening of hospitality last month and the end of a night time curfew that had been in place for several months.

The relaxation of the mask requirement will depend on a continued low incidence rate of Covid-19 though, which is being monitored by the Ministry of Health. 

Austria’s Kurier newspaper reported that the mask rules could be further relaxed from July 22nd, however this has not been confirmed by the government

Why are the rules changing?

The changing of the FFP2 rules is related to the ongoing relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions across Austria as the number of new cases remains low. 

The seven day incidence, or the number of new infections with Covid-19 in the past seven days per 100,000 inhabitants, is currently at 11.9 and there are no federal states with a value above 30. 

Styria (4.6) has the lowest incidence rate and Vienna has the highest value at 25.3.

Additionally, the vaccination roll-out in Austria is picking up speed and Kurz believes two thirds of the population will probably be vaccinated by the end of the summer, just in time for an expected rise in cases in the autumn.

READ MORE: Austrian study ‘confirms’ long-term immunity of recovered Covid patients 

In an interview with the Österreich newspaper on Sunday, Kurz also said he did not want masks to become “permanent” in Austria, and said it was not part of the culture in Europe, unlike in other places, such as Asia.

However, due to the regional difference in case rates and concerns about the Delta variant, Vienna might not relax the FFP2 mask requirement in line with the rest of the country, according to a report by Der Standard.

What about the Delta variant?

As the Delta variant continues to spread around the world – particularly in the UK and the US – there are concerns about an increase of the strain in Austria.

The Kronen Zeitung reports that Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein (Greens) is expecting cases of the Delta variant in Austria to increase, but that any spread of the strain will be slow.

Kurz said there is “no reason to panic” but urged people to get vaccinated before the Delta variant becomes more established in Austria.

Kurz also dismissed criticism that Austria is repeating the mistakes of last summer and said the country is well prepared for the next wave through the vaccination campaign.

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