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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 ALERT

Will Austria bring back its mask mandate before autumn?

As Covid-19 infection numbers continue rising, Austria's government doesn't rule out a comeback of the mask requirement.

Will Austria bring back its mask mandate before autumn?

Austria has seen rising Covid-19 numbers for weeks, and the country’s traffic light commission has increased the risk rating of all federal states, with none currently designated as “low risk”.

Virologists and health experts have given many explanations for rising numbers and forecast that new infections, currently at more than 12,000 a day, could reach more than 30,000 in the next few weeks.

Austria’s Covid commission said that the omicron subvariant BA.4/BA.5 is a decisive factor in the increase, as it is considered more infectious. “Additionally, an increased proportion of travel-associated cases has been observed in recent weeks”, the commission stated.

READ ALSO: LATEST: These are the Covid rules in Austria and Vienna from June 2022

Dorothee von Laer, a Med-Uni Innsbruck virologist, told Der Standard that the new subvariant could be responsible for a new wave as “the protection we have from BA1 infections, and from vaccinations, is not so good against BA.4/BA.5”.

“So people who were infected early on, or who are only vaccinated, have of course some protection against hospitalisation, but almost no or very little protection against infection”, she said.

Von Laer mentioned other factors that likely contributed to the increasing numbers, including the fact that people have stopped wearing masks after the requirement was dropped in most of Austria.

Are masks about to make a comeback?

When Austria’s federal government announced they would drop the Covid mask mandate, they phrased it as a “pause” to the FFP2 masks, which were still mandatory in essential trade and public transport.

Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) said that the mask requirement will be “paused”, as the pandemic is not over yet, and that people should be prepared for a resumption of the rules after summer, as The Local reported.

BACKGROUND: Austria to ‘pause’ Covid mask mandate from June 1st

Many experts believe FFP2 masks won’t be optional for long if numbers continue rising. Von Laer said, “we will probably have to resort to the mask again, even if the hospitals are not overcrowded because we want to protect the vulnerable people”.

The health minister had already stated that it is time people “take personal responsibility” so that they choose to wear masks in crowds or when close to vulnerable people.

READ ALSO: 11,000 new cases: Will Austria reintroduce restrictions as infection numbers rise?

However, he recently added that if the situation “goes in the direction of overloading the health system, then, of course, I am also obliged to react”.

The minister also said he reassesses the situation every week, observing developments in other countries.

‘We will have to learn’

For Rauch, people will need to learn to live with the masks, as future waves can also be expected in the coming years. He added that we would have to learn to take personal responsibility, make self-assessments, and have solidarity.

READ ALSO: Austria sees scores of flight cancellations after airline staff contact Covid

He also assumes more flexible measures in the future. For example, public transport signs will ask for the mask mandate during morning traffic hours, but not on empty evening trains.

His goal, the minister stated, was to find a middle ground between demanding as few restrictions as possible and exercising caution.

Covid-19 stats

Austria on Wednesday reported 12,509 new coronavirus infections after 169,948 PCR tests, according to the Health Ministry.

There were 856 people in hospitals with Covid-19 and 47 in intensive care. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 18,779 people have died from the disease.

The country has just over 61 percent of its population with a valid vaccination pass.

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