Will Vienna restrict sports, leisure and gastronomy facilities to the vaccinated?

Federal authorities are headed for a collision course with their Vienna counterparts about whether to allow certain privileges for vaccinated people in Austria. 

Will Vienna restrict sports, leisure and gastronomy facilities to the vaccinated?
A generic template image of the vaccine passport. Photo by Olya Kobruseva from Pexels

On Sunday evening, Austrian Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein said it was “too early” to put in place stricter rules for the unvaccinated, saying people needed more time to ensure they got the jab.

“The restriction of public life currently only for vaccinated people is currently not ripe for a nationwide decision,” said the health minister.

Mückstein however did not rule out putting in place stricter rules at some stage, including reintroducing masks in indoor areas for unvaccinated people or reducing the validity of antigen tests.

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

“I think it’s a question of when. We have had a worsening epidemiological situation for a few days. We have almost 1,000 positive tests per day now for the fifth day in a row.”

Mückstein stands in direct opposition to Vienna health boss Peter Hacker, who said unvaccinated people should be banned from sports and leisure facilities.

“There is no way of getting around the fact that only vaccinated people should be allowed in” Hacker said.

Hacker said Vienna would have no hesitation adopting different rules to the rest of the country as it had done before.

“If the number of infections increases, and they look likely to increase at the beginning of the school year, then, for example, unvaccinated teachers will teach with masks.”

“Better to make things vaccination only rather than have more closures” Hacker said.

Thomas Szekeres, President of the Medical Association, said the federal government should “absolutely support” Hacker’s plan.

Hacker also has won support from businesses in the hospitality and gastronomy sector, who have said they would welcome rules which restrict entry to the vaccinated.

Several prominent entrepreneurs in the Vienna bar and restaurant scene told Krone on Monday that they support Hacker’s efforts.

“Peter Hacker’s move is the right announcement that we need now,” said Martin Ho, who owns several bars and restaurants in the Austrian capital.

David Schober, who runs several bars in Vienna, said the proposals outlined by Hacker would prevent further lockdowns.

“The Viennese advance is going in the right direction, which will save us lockdowns.”

Thomas Figlmüller, who runs Vienna’s famous Figlmüller schnitzel restaurant, said the change would be a constructive step in returning to normal.

“Any clear legal requirement that increases the vaccination rate and thus accelerates the return to normal is to be welcomed.”

Several other Austrian states have said they would welcome stricter rules for the unvaccinated, including Styria, Carinthia and Tyrol, however they said a national approach should be pursued.

“That is absolutely the right approach, but it only works if the federal government and the states agree on clear measures together,” said the Styrian health councilor Juliane Bogner-Strauss (ÖVP) on Sunday.

Her counterpart in Carinthia said stricter rules for the unvaccinated were “unavoidable”.

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Austria recommends Covid booster shot for children aged five and over

The commission also recommends three doses of the vaccine for people who have recovered from the coronavirus disease.

Austria recommends Covid booster shot for children aged five and over

Austria’s National Vaccination Board has recommended that children from the age of five get a third dose of the Covid-19 vaccination, the “booster” dose.

“This third vaccination should take place at the latest at the beginning of the school year ahead of the expected next waves of infection in autumn”, the board said in a press statement.

The third dose is recommended six months after the second shot, the commission added.

Additionally, the updated recommendation given by the government body also clarified that a total of three vaccinations are needed for “the best possible and long-term protection”, even among people who have already been infected with Covid-19.

READ ALSO: UPDATED: The latest coronavirus restrictions in Austria

The commission stated that “from an immunological point of view, these vaccinations are to be regarded as a basic vaccination”. This means that, in the future, the Covi-19 vaccination schedule will consider three doses of an approved vaccine.

According to the board statement, an infection with the coronavirus would only lead to a postponement of the vaccinations but shouldn’t replace any dose.

Austria’s Health Minister Johannes Rauch reinforced the need for vaccination in the country, which currently has fewer than 70 per cent of its population with two doses of the vaccine up to date.

“The corona vaccination has saved the lives of countless people and continues to do so. The ongoing adaptation of recommendations ensures that new scientific findings are constantly incorporated”, Rauch said in a press statement.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What are Austria’s plans to bring back the vaccine mandate?

The new recommendation can be found on Austria’s Health Ministry website. However, the ministry hasn’t specified how the recommendation would affect the Covid-19 passes or the “green pass” validity, especially those held by people who have recovered from the disease.

Covid numbers

Austria this Monday reported 4,111 new coronavirus infections, with 89,861 PCR tests taken in 24 hours. According to the Health Ministry, there are currently 1,492 people hospitalised with the virus (26 fewer than the day before), and 124 people are in intensive care units with Covid.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 18,054 people have died from the Covid-19.

The alpine country has currently 68.4 per cent of its population with a valid vaccination certificate, and 54.5 per cent of its population has received the third dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

READ ALSO: Austria to keep masks only in ‘essential places’ from April 16th

Austria has recently removed almost all of its coronavirus restrictions, including the need to show a valid vaccination certificate to enter bars and restaurants. The country also dropped its FFP2 mask mandate in all indoor areas except for “essential” places such as public transport, health areas, and supermarkets.