Vienna to keep in place stricter coronavirus measures: What you need to know

Vienna’s coronavirus measures will not be relaxed to the same extent as those across the country. Here is what you need to know.

Vienna to keep in place stricter coronavirus measures: What you need to know
Children will need to be tested from the age of six and up in Vienna. Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP

On Wednesday afternoon, June 30th, Vienna decided it would keep in place several coronavirus measures from July 1st, thereby not fully participating in the nationwide relaxation announced in mid-June. 

While the majority of the measures – such as those relating to closing times for bars and crowds will be relaxed in line with those nationally, some measures will be kept in place, relating to masks, testing and children. 

What has Vienna decided to do?

Vienna has decided to introduce stricter restrictions around testing for children aged six and for adults in the federal capital.

Children must show proof of having tested negative or recovered from Covid-19 to go to a swimming pool or to go to a restaurant.

For the rest of the country, the testing/vaccination or recovery requirement kicks into place from the age of 12, rather than six. 

According to Vienna’s Mayor Ludwig, the age group of 0 to 19 years olds is currently responsible for 40 percent of infections in Vienna. 

IN DETAIL: How Austria will relax coronavirus measures from Thursday

One of the reasons for the change is that it is currently school holidays, which means that the regular tests children were getting at school are now no longer taking place. 

Adults may also no longer use “living room” antigen tests as proof, meaning that everyone will need to get a test done at an accredited centre. 

Antigen tests will be valid for 48 hours – and PCR tests will be valid for 72 hours. 

The city will also ensure FFP2 masks remain obligatory in hospitals and nursing homes, whereas the FFP2 mask requirement has been relaxed in the rest of the country. 

Cotton face coverings are fine in public transport and shops in Vienna, as they are in the rest of the country. 

Vienna will continue asking people to register when they visit a restaurant to provide their contact details. 

While this requirement looks set to be relaxed on the 22nd of July in the rest of the country, Vienna has indicated it will remain in place for the foreseeable future. 

What has been the reaction to this decision? 

Austria’s Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein (Greens) said he welcomed Vienna’s initiative in a tweet. He pointed out the pandemic was not yet over. 

However, the Tourism Minister Elisabeth Köstinger of the centre-right ÖVP party said it was “absurd” to “unilaterally change the rules on the day before well-planned nationwide opening steps”, Der Standard newspaper reports.

She said it was too short notice for restaurants to change their rules, and would make life harder for families over the summer.

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Austria recommends 4th Covid vaccine dose for everyone over 12

Austria's autumn Covid-19 plan includes a fourth Covid-19 dose to all those older than 12 and the Health Ministry doesn't rule out further measures, especially a return of the mask mandate.

Austria recommends 4th Covid vaccine dose for everyone over 12

Austria’s Health Ministry and the country’s National Immunisation Panel (NIG) have recommended a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine to the general population ahead of autumn.

Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) and physician Herwig Kollaritsch of the Immunisation Panel have requested people take the vaccination before the cold months, reiterating that the Covid-19 vaccine is safe and protects against more severe courses of the disease.

“You can do a lot before autumn. Don’t wait until the numbers rise. Get vaccinated, take the booster shots”, Kollaritsch said in a press conference this Wednesday, August 31st.

READ ALSO: LATEST: The Covid rules across Austria from August 2022

The previous recommendation was only for people older than 60 or those in risk groups. “After there was already the booster recommendation for the vulnerable and over 60-year-olds over the summer, all other groups are to get a booster in the coming weeks,” the health minister said.

Only 58.9 percent of the population is currently sufficiently vaccinated, as per the recommendation of the National Immunisation Panel (NIG) – which for the majority of the population is three doses – or if they’ve had Covid then two doses and a recent recovered status.

New measures ahead of autumn

The health minister stopped short of announcing new Covid-19 measures for autumn.

When he announced the end of the mask mandate in the country back in May, Rauch had said the suspension would be “temporary” and masks were likely to return after summer, depending on the pandemic, particularly on hospitalisation numbers.

Currently, masks are obligatory in the health sector and on public transport in Vienna.

“We evaluate the situation weekly by talking with the hospital heads in the states. We have a very good view of the Covid-19 data, and we don’t rule out bringing measures back in the future”, he said.

READ ALSO: Vienna extends stricter Covid-19 rules until late October

He added: “It is likely that in the autumn, compulsory masks will again be useful and necessary in certain areas such as public transport or supermarkets,”.

For now, though, the minister said he recommends people to get vaccinated, wear masks where social distancing is not possible, and get tested regularly – even if those measures are not mandatory.

When should you get vaccinated?

The fourth vaccination should come a minimum of four months after the third one (or after a Covid-19 infection) but not after six months of the third dose (regardless of whether or not the person has had an infection after the last vaccine), according to the NIG.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Which Austrian states will allow Covid-infected teachers in classrooms?

For children between five and eleven years of age, the basic immunisation – which consists of three vaccinations – should be completed by the start of school at the latest; no booster vaccination is currently recommended in this age group.

Austria expects vaccines adapted to the omicron variant to arrive in the country before the end of September, the health minister said.