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COVID-19

IN DETAIL: How Austria will relax coronavirus measures from Thursday

Austria will relax almost all coronavirus measures from July 1st. Here’s what you need to know.

IN DETAIL: How Austria will relax coronavirus measures from Thursday
Austria will relax almost all rules from July 1st. Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP

With infection rates and hospitalisations continuing to fall across Austria, the government is set to further relax almost all remaining coronavirus measures from July 1st. 

Only a few will remain, including the 3G Rule – which requires people to prove they have been vaccinated, tested or recovered from Covid in order to take part in most activities. 

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

Authorities in the capital of Vienna have however been more cautious and have decided against winding back measures to the same extent as the rest of the country. 

In Vienna, children must be tested from the age of six and above if they want to go to a swimming pool or a restaurant. The tests cannot be carried out at home. 

“The situation is much better than expected,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told reporters in mid June when making the announcement, “everything that is fun is back again”. 

Although he cautioned that people should get the vaccine and not become “overconfident” until they are immunised.

Here are the changes that will be made from July 1st onwards. 

For the measures in place until July 1st, click the following link. 

READ MORE: What are Austria’s current coronavirus measures? 

Limits on crowds relaxed

Groups of up to 100 can meet without restriction, while groups of up to 500 people need to notify authorities. 

Groups of over 500 can be allowed to meet but must be subject to approval. 

At events, people do not need to keep their distance or wear face coverings anymore.

Visiting stadiums and theatres will also be possible without restrictions. 

Distance rules will also be abolished. 

Nightlife

Bars and restaurants will no longer have to close at midnight, while capacity and space restrictions will be dropped in almost all industries. 

Drinking at the bar and dancing will be allowed again. 

Clubs, pubs and restaurants can open up again to 75 percent capacity – and will be allowed to open to 100 percent capacity from July 22nd. 

Contact details must still be kept, although that requirement will expire on the 22nd of July. 

Vienna has indicated it will keep the contact details requirement in place longer than July. 

ANALYSIS: Is Austria relaxing Covid-19 measures too quickly?

Masks

In an interview with the Österreich newspaper on Sunday, June 20th, Kurz 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.

From July 1st, medical grade or FFP2 masks will no longer need to be worn anywhere in Austria, other than in the capital of Vienna where they will continue to be required in hospitals and nursing homes. 

Masks will only be required in areas where the 3G Rule cannot be checked, i.e. public transport, retail stores and supermarkets. 

Non-medical grade mouth protection, i.e. cotton masks or scarves, will again be sufficient in public transport and in supermarkets. 

No masks of any kind will be required in outdoor areas, regardless of the size of the event.

Masks will no longer be required in hairdressers, restaurants and bars – i.e. anywhere the 3G Rule applies. 

READ MORE: Masks no longer required at hairdressers, gyms or cinema from Thursday

Travel

Austria is set to change its strict entry rules, with people from several non-European countries again allowed to enter. 

The list of ‘low-risk’ countries has been expanded, with the United States and several other countries added. 

Unfortunately, the ban on Brits has been extended to August 31st. 

Please click here for more information. 

The specific measures have been laid out at the government’s official page here.

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COVID-19 STATS

UPDATED: Will Austria bring back face mask mandate to battle rising Covid cases?

As the number of Covid-19 infections and related hospitalisations rises in Austria, many are asking for new measures to be adopted, especially a mask mandate.

UPDATED: Will Austria bring back face mask mandate to battle rising Covid cases?

Austria has seen an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations in recent weeks, with 2,428 people currently hospitalised with the disease, including 118 in intensive care (ICU).

One month ago, just 871 people were being treated in hospital with an additional 47 people in ICU.

The Austrian Federal Government has now said they will make a decision on bringing back the mask mandate by October 23rd. Last week, the National Covid Crisis Coordination (GECKO) recommended wearing FFP2 masks.

According to ORF, the mask mandate could return for public indoor spaces, public transport and in the gastronomy sector. The Austrian Trade Association has already rejected the suggestion saying it would be the “last straw” for employees as the industry struggles with staff shortages.

What are the Covid-19 experts predicting for the autumn and winter season?

The latest report from the Covid prognosis consortium in Austria predicts a rise in hospitalisations in October. 

In a “worst case” scenario, as many as 3,428 people who tested positive would need a hospital bed on October 19th, the latest forecast said. A “further significant increase in hospitalisation is to be expected, with the Covid population in the ICU area remaining almost unchanged”, the experts summarised.

READ ALSO: Reader question: When should I get a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in Austria?

In comparison, last autumn, the country was on an Austria-wide lockdown and on November 28th, there were 2,767 infected persons hospitalised.

However, the experts said there is a very high proportion of incidental findings among hospitalised patients. Only around 22 percent of those presently hospitalised were admitted with Covid-19 symptoms. In the intensive care unit, this proportion was only 12 percent – most people go to the hospital for other reasons and find they test positive for the coronavirus.

Calls for pandemic-containment measures

Still, the consortium warned about staff shortages in hospitals. “The increased infection pressure is currently also translating into above-average unplanned staff absences”, it wrote.

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

In view of the situation in the hospitals, experts are calling for the reintroduction of mandatory masks.

Virologist Dorothee von Laer from the Medical University of Innsbruck criticised the government, saying authorities were once again “too late” to take measures.

“We are now at the last push to reintroduce compulsory masks indoors so that the omicron wave from spring is not repeated,” the virologist told Kurier.

“How much longer to watch Covid go through the roof? Winter is still long, and hospitals are getting crowded with decreasing staff and increasing occupancy. Mask up! #CovidIsntOver,” Thomas Czypionka, Head of IHS Health Economics and Health Policy of the Institute for Advanced Studies (IHS), said on Twitter.

Currently, people in Austria only need to wear masks in the health sector area, such as in hospitals and elderly care homes. However, the capital Vienna has stricter rules, imposing a mask mandate on public transport.

Only in a ‘state of emergency’

Speaking to public broadcaster ORF, Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) ruled out the immediate introduction of a mask mandate.

He said stricter rules would only be imposed if the situation in hospitals “escalates, becomes threatening, and a state of emergency occurs”.

READ ALSO: LATEST: The Covid rules across Austria

At the same time, he reiterated that the pandemic is not over and that when the government removed the mask mandate, it also announced the rules could be brought back in autumn.

“When the mask requirement was abolished in grocery stores and public transport in the spring, I already said: If it should become necessary again in the autumn, the general mask requirement will be reintroduced there”, he said.

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