Could free Covid-19 tests be coming to an end in Austria?

The Austrian Medical Chamber is calling for an end to free Covid-19 tests in the coming months as the vaccination roll-out continues.

Could free Covid-19 tests be coming to an end in Austria?
A testing centre in Vienna. Photo: ALEX HALADA / AFP

President of the Medical Association, Thomas Szekeres, said people that don’t want to be vaccinated but still visit restaurants or attend events, should pay for a Covid-19 test themselves, Der Standard reports.

Szekeres said everyone now has the opportunity to be vaccinated against Covid-19 and providing ongoing free tests is expensive.

Other leading figures in favour of ending free tests are Christoph Reisner, President of the Lower Austrian Medical Chamber, and Peter Lehner (ÖVP), Chairman of Social Insurance for the Self Employed (SVS) and Co-chair of the Conference of Social Insurance Agencies.

However, there have also been calls for exceptions for the socially disadvantaged or for those who cannot be vaccinated, if free Covid-19 tests are no longer available in the future.

Green pass: Recovered people with one Covid jab now deemed ‘fully immune’ in Austria

Currently, people living in Austria can access free tests at testing stations and pharmacies throughout the country, with the state picking up the tab for the cost.

Austria is one of the leading countries for offering free tests to citizens and residents. The cost of providing a PCR test is around €60.

Support for the end to free testing is mostly coming from ÖVP-governed federal states, including Upper Austria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg and Styria.

Governor of Tyrol, Günther Platter (ÖVP), said a long-term plan of “everything is always free” is not feasible.

Governor of Vorarlberg, Markus Wallner (ÖVP), also called for an end to free tests, but said testing on a large scale is effective for dealing with outbreaks and should be taken into account in the autumn.

The provincial governments in Salzburg and Lower Austria have reacted more cautiously to the suggestions. Authorities in Vienna, Carinthia and Burgenland rejected an end to free tests.

Vienna City Councilor for Health, Peter Hacker (SPÖ), said PCR tests are an important part of Vienna’s screening programme and provide information about the development of the pandemic.

READ MORE: What will the rules be for children returning to school in Austria this autumn?

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What tourists in Austria should do if they test positive for Covid

As the summer holidays begin here's all you need to know about Covid-19 in Austria, how to get a free test and what to do if it comes back positive.

What tourists in Austria should do if they test positive for Covid

Summer holidays are about to start, and many people are going to take vacations and travel around Europe. So if you are heading to Austria, here’s what you need to know to enjoy the nice weather without (so many) concerns.

Covid rules in Austria

First things first: are you following the country’s entry rules? Austria has significantly eased its restrictions and now you don’t need to show any proof that you were vaccinated, recovered or tested negative to Covid-19. There is also no need to fill out any forms.

Additionally, it has removed most of its local restrictions, including contact restrictions and mandatory mask mandate. You only need to wear an FFP2 mask in Vienna’s public transport, and if you are going to a hospital or another health or care facility. 

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

What is the current Covid-19 situation in Austria?

The number of new infections is on the rise in Austria, but authorities are not bringing back any restriction at the moment. The Austrian government says that numbers were expected to rise as new variants are more infectious, but cause a less severe course of the disease.

On Monday, June 27th, Austria reported 6,398 new coronavirus infections after 65,830 PCR tests. There were 777 people hospitalised with Covid-19 and 48 in intensive care units. 

READ ALSO: Is Austria heading for a summer Covid wave and could face masks return?

What do I do if I suspect I have Covid-19?

Even if you just suspect it you should get tested. There are several ways to get tested for free in Austria, but if you have symptoms, you should call the Austrian health line on number 1450.

A nurse will be able to assess your symptoms and either classify you as a suspected case or give you further information on how to reach a general practitioner – or even go to a hospital if necessary.

If you are a suspected case, you could be referred to a specific test facility, or someone will be sent to the place where you are staying for a PCR test.

You can check a list of Vienna testing centres here.

READ ALSO: Covid-19: What to do if you test positive in Austria

How can I get tested for free?

Since April 1st, Austria has changed its testing policy, and free Covid-19 tests are no longer unlimited in the country.

People will be entitled to five PCR and five antigen tests a month, though testing as a suspected case does not fall into that limit.

One of the easiest ways to get a free Covid PCR test, especially for people who don’t speak German, is using the Alles Gurgelt offers. For this, you need to sign up to the website.

When you click “jetzt registrieren“, you are taken to the partner company website. There are several languages to pick from, including English, Spanish, Italian, Turkish, Portuguese, and Romanian.

When asked for a social security number, you can just enter the digit 0000 together with your date of birth, as instructed by the website.

Tourists can also use test streets and “test boxes”, as you only need to bring a registration confirmation and an official ID and wear an FFP2 mask. The registration is made online, and you can check a box stating that you don’t have an Austrian social security number (Sozialversicherungsnummer).

READ ALSO: Vienna: How tourists, visitors (and residents) can get free Covid tests

What if my test comes back positive?

If you have tested positive for Covid-19, you are required to stay in isolation, which can be done in a hotel room, rented property, or in the house of the people you are staying with. In the latter case, your friends and family staying in the same place as you won’t have to go into quarantine.

If they are fully vaccinated, they are not considered contact persons. However, they should still get tested.

While in isolation, you are not allowed to leave the place you are staying for any other reason than health and safety emergencies.

You need to stay at home quarantined for 10 days. The quarantine can be ended automatically after five days if a PCR test comes back negative or with a CT value above 30 if you don’t have any symptoms for at least 48h.

Can I return home if I test positive?

Public health officers can decide whether individuals are allowed to travel home. Usually, this is allowed when travelling by private car. Train or plane journeys are not permitted with suspected or confirmed cases.

Useful vocabulary

Absonderungsbescheid: A segregation notice obliges a person to isolate himself from other people as much as possible. This is often referred to as quarantine.
Kontaktpersonen: Contact persons are persons who have been in contact (shake hands, conversation,…) with a person who tested positive.
Ansteckung: Infection.
Verdachtsfall: Suspected case.
Testergebnis: Test result.