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COVID-19 HEALTH PASS

3G to become 2G: Austria tightens green pass rules

Austria's green pass is only valid for those who have been fully vaccinated from Sunday 15th August, but this status will now also include those who have recovered from Covid and had one jab.

3G to become 2G: Austria tightens green pass rules
The Green Pass will turn red for thousands of people in Austria in the coming months. What happens next? Photo: JOEL SAGET / AFP

Previously, the vaccination certificates showed 1/2 for those with a previous Covid infection and one jab (compared with 2/2 for those who had received two shots), but now the passes will state 1/1, giving them the same status as the fully vaccinated.

In order to encourage vaccination and counter the threat of the Delta variant, Austria has also tightened rules for entry to certain venues.

Since July 22nd, only people who have been vaccinated or those who have had a negative PCR test less than 72 hours ago have been able to attend nightclubs.

Unlike the previous rules, people who have recovered from the virus or those who have tested negative with antigen tests will not be allowed to attend.

In effect, this changes Austria’s famous ‘3G Rule’ to a 2G Rule. 

The 3G Rule refers to ‘Getestet, Geimpft, Genesen’ (Tested, Vaccinated, Recovered) and describes the three ways someone can provide evidence they are immune to the virus.

Now however, only PCR tests (valid for 72 hours), antigen tests (24 hours) and vaccinations count in nightlife venues. 

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

Nightlife venues include nightclubs and discos, as well as pubs with a dance floor and larger events. 

In addition to the stricter rules, the government announced it would be devoting more resources to checking venues were in compliance. 

“That is why I am now instructing the local authorities to monitor compliance with the 3-G and 2-G rule more intensively. A focus should be placed on the catering trade” said Wolfgang Mückstein. 

READ MORE: Austria to introduce on-the-spot fines for breaching 3G rule

While at this stage Austrian authorities have indicated the rule will not be further extended, Austrian media reports that further tightenings could be on the cards. 

How has this impacted life in Austria? 

Free PCR tests have been rolled out in pharmacies as a result of the change, although these are not necessarily easy to get everywhere. 

Stefan Ratzenberger, spokesperson for the Austrian Nightlife Association, says that while the rule has hit Vienna hard by reducing profits by 45 percent, the figure is much lower in areas with fewer pharmacies. 

Outside of Vienna, nightlife venues have reported a 90 to 95 percent loss in income. 

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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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