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COVID-19 VACCINES

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

The Local Austria reached out to readers to ask about getting the green pass, with several telling us of "burdensome" difficulties and hurdles they encountered when trying to receive it.

How foreign residents in Austria are struggling to get a Covid-19 immunity pass
Have you had problems getting Austria's Covid immunity pass? Photo: TOM LITTLE / AFP

The central component of the reopening of Austria’s economy – along with international travel – over the past few months has been the Covid-19 immunity pass. 

Nicknamed the ‘green pass’, the card – which shows immunity to the virus from recovery or vaccination, or that a person doesn’t have the virus through a negative test – allows people to visit hairdressers, restaurants, events and also to travel internationally. 

However, several readers report major hurdles with the scheme which have prevented them from getting the green pass entirely. 

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

In late June, The Local Austria released a callout to readers to ask about their experiences getting the card. 

Four out of seven told us they had issues obtaining it, with the remainder informing us that the experience was largely positive without any significant issues. 

E-card

One major issue has been the need for an e-card in order to get the pass. 

Almost all medical procedures, whether administrative or therapeutic, require an e-card in Austria. 

As The Local has reported previously, people need either an e-card or a social security number in order to get the vaccine in Austria. 

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

While almost everyone in Austria will have an e-card regardless of insurance status, there are some who do not.  

This includes people who work for international organisations such as the UN and are privately insured through their work, along with some postgraduate students. 

Penny, from Australia, told us she was unable to get the green pass as she “does not have an e-card or Austrian social security number as I have private health insurance with an international organisation”

Olivier Adam, from France, said he was denied proof of vaccination due to not having an e-card. 

“With private insurance I was told gesundheit.gv.at cannot issue a QR code. Yesterday I waited one hour in line at VC to get my proof of vaccination to be told only people with the E-card will be able to get the electronic pass” he said. 

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

Foreign phone number

In order to get the green pass, you’ll need a Handysignature – a special code sent to your phone. 

The problem with this is that it is only available to Austrian numbers. 

With many foreigners choosing to keep their numbers despite living in Austria, this has made it impossible to get a central requirement of the pass. 

Sean McIntyre told The Local that despite having an Austrian number, he was unable to get past the Handysignature requirement – and that other options had so far been fruitless. 

“I’m currently stuck on the step to get the Handysignature which, to my understanding, is a requirement for the Greencard,” he said. 

“I’ve gone to the post office for an identity check, and am now waiting for a letter in the mail to complete the authentication. 

“The post office website says it should “arrive in a few days” but now it’s been two weeks. I’m not sure how to follow-up or whom to ask for an update, so I must wait!”

Paul agreed. 

“I cant get my (handy) signature due to having a foreign phone number. I don’t know about alternative ways of getting the certificate”

Ben Bruce, from the United States, told The Local getting the Handysignature was “a burdensome requirement, especially for the elderly and foreigners”. 

“There is no easy way to pick it up in person. The process has not been explained well at all by government.”

As of early July, the state government in Vienna indicated the green pass could be obtained without a Handysignature by using its Homecare app, which does not require an Austrian number. 

With Vienna’s high proportion of foreigners, this is likely to be good news for many who were unable to get the app. 

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

‘Everything was fine’

While a slight majority told us they experienced issues getting the pass, others indicated they were able to get the pass without any problems. 

Vlad, originally from Russia, told us the process worked as advertised. 

“Everything was fine,” he said. “I got an SMS from Stadt Wien and easily downloaded the PDF file”. 

Two others said the experience was largely positive. 

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Austria formally scraps mandatory Covid vaccination law

Just months after announcing mandatory nationwide Covid vaccinations under threats of financial penalties, Austria has unanimously decided to scrap the law.

Austria formally scraps mandatory Covid vaccination law

Austria’s National Council unanimously decided to repeal the vaccination obligation law and associated regulations, the Parliament said on Thursday. 

In making the announcement, the ÖVP and Greens coalition stated that the lifting is in no way intended to reduce the relevance of the vaccination’s contribution to managing the pandemic, particularly concerning lowering the impact of severe courses of the disease. 

They continue to incentivise people to get the vaccines, but now there is no legal obligation.

End of the road for controversial mandate

The controversial measure was announced late in 2021 and had been put into effect in February, with penalties for non-compliance to be introduced in March. 

The laws included a set of regulations allowing police to check people’s vaccinated status. Those that could not prove they were either vaccinated, or recently recovered from the disease, would have to pay a fine.

Before these penalties were introduced however, the law was suspended until August. 

At the time, the government said the suspension was due to the combined impact of the lower virulence of the Omicron variant and the impact of widespread vaccination coverage across the country. 

“The omicron variant changed the situation”, health minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) said at the time. 

He added that the law was introduced in a different context and was supported by “a clear majority” at the time when hospitals were full and “intensive care units were on the limit”.

The minister said that the new variant has reduced the effectiveness of vaccination against infections and has caused less severe courses of the disease.

“Even people who are willing to vaccinate in principle are now more difficult to convince of the need for a third dose”.

Rauch said the obligation to vaccinate did not increase the take up of the Covid jab. Instead, it “opened deep trenches in Austrian society”, according to the minister.

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