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COVID-19

UPDATE: What are the current rules for masks in Austria?

Austria relaxed mask rules in July. Here's what you need to know.

UPDATE: What are the current rules for masks in Austria?
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz wears a mask with the national flag of Austria. Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP

This report was last updated on September 23rd. 

As at mid-September, Austria has tightened the requirement to wear an FFP2 mask in many public places. 

An FFP2 mask will be required for public transport and in essential retail shops, like supermarkets and pharmacies, with cloth masks no longer acceptable.

FFP2 masks are also required in hospitals or nursing homes. 

In retail shops and stores, FFP2 masks are mandatory for the unvaccinated. For vaccinated people, masks are recommended rather than mandated. 

Those who have had the virus and recovered from it in the past six months are also not required to wear masks in retail (they are merely recommended). 

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 tightening or 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, along with reference to hospitalisation rates and ICU capacity. 

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has repeatedly said that the only way out of the pandemic is for more Austrians to become vaccinated. 

In an interview with the Österreich newspaper in July, 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.

COMPARE: What are the Covid test requirements around Europe for child travellers

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COVID-19 VACCINES

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.

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