From July 1st, Austria relaxed the requirement to wear an FFP2 mask in many public places.
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.
Masks do not need to be worn in bars, restaurants and anywhere else where the 3G rule is in place. In effect, it means wearing masks is required in areas where entry cannot be restricted.
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.
From July 22nd, masks will no longer be required in retail shops.
Masks will however still be required in hospitals, nursing homes, banks, supermarkets, petrol stations and public transport.
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.
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.
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.
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.