3G to 1G: Could Austria make bars, gyms, hairdressers and events ‘vaccinated only’?

As leading medical figures speak out in favour of the 1G rule, how likely is it that 1G could be introduced in Austria in the coming months?

3G to 1G: Could Austria make bars, gyms, hairdressers and events 'vaccinated only'?
Vaccine passport rules could be tightened. Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels

Covid-19 cases in Austria are rising and autumn is just around the corner, particularly due to the highly contagious Delta variant, which is now by far the most dominant strain in all parts of the country. 

One possible measure to stop the spread is to restrict certain businesses and venues only to people who have been vaccinated.

This means that people who have recovered from the virus and those who have tested negative would no longer be allowed to enter, in effect shifting Austria’s 3G rule to make it a ‘1G rule’. 

This would apply to nightclubs, bars and restaurants, but would also apply to other areas such as gyms, hairdressers and larger event venues. 

How realistic is this change in Austria?

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein both forecast the introduction of the 1G rule in nightclubs, discos and late-night bars if infections continue to climb. 

The broadcaster ORF reports there has been a “secret discussion” between Kurz and Mückstein about allowing visits to bars and restaurants only to people who have been vaccinated.

Head of the catering industry Mario Pulker is reported to be vehemently against the plan, and says he would go to the constitutional court if the government were to try to implement such a rule.

Now, a member of the national vaccination commission has spoken out in favour of introducing the 1G rule in Austria.

Infectionologist Herwig Kollaritsch spoke to the Ö1 Morgenjournal show about the pandemic and said he supports switching to a 1G rule in Austria.

This would mean certain activities, such as visiting bars, restaurants, hairdressers and events, would only be allowed for vaccinated people, Der Standard reports.

There is currently a 3G rule in Austria with a requirement for people to show proof of vaccination, a negative test or recovery from Covid-19 to access places like bars and restaurants.

READ MORE: What is the risk of catching Covid-19 in Austria when already vaccinated?

Kollaritsch said the reason for supporting a move to 1G is that vaccinated people are less likely to catch Covid-19, whereas unvaccinated people are still at risk.

He also said there could be a “threatening scenario” in the autumn with the Delta variant, which is “about as infectious as chickenpox”.

Mückstein recently said the 1G rule could be conceivable from October, but everyone must have the opportunity to get vaccinated first.

Legally, experts believe such a move would be possible. Karl Stöger, an expert in medical law speaking with the Kurier, said he expected the rule to survive any legal challenges. 

“In my opinion, a 1-G rule made with a sense of proportion has a good chance of surviving the Constitutional Court.”

Vienna in favour of 1G

The City of Vienna has previously spoken out in favour of the 1G rule, but the Wiener Zeitung reports it is unlikely to be introduced yet. Instead, Vienna is calling for a nationwide solution.

Vienna already has some rules in place that differ from the rest of Austria, such as a requirement to wear masks in shops. This mandate was dropped in other federal states on July 22nd.

READ MORE: How Vienna wants to restrict restaurants and events to vaccinated people only

Mayor of Vienna Michael Ludwig (SPÖ) is on Tuesday consulting with experts on the current restrictions and ongoing Covid-19 situation, with expectations that the mask mandate will be extended into the autumn.

What is happening in other countries?

In neighbouring Germany, there are discussions about restricting unvaccinated people in the future if infection rates rise again, but there has been no confirmation of this.

However, ​​FC Köln has announced only people that have been vaccinated or recovered (2G) can attend matches from August 28th onwards – with exceptions for people who can’t get vaccinated, like children and pregnant women.

In Canada, the province of British Columbia has announced a plan for only vaccinated people to be able to attend concerts, sporting events, movies, restaurants, nightclubs, casinos or fitness classes from September 13th.

READ ALSO: Side effects: How safe are Covid vaccines in Austria?

British Columbia Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said 90 percent of all new Covid-19 cases in the province were in unvaccinated people.

In July, French President Emmanuel Macron announced legislation to limit access to hospitality to people that have been vaccinated, recovered or tested negative (similar to Austria’s 3G rule).

The rule has been in effect since early August and has prompted protests across the country, but the number of people being vaccinated in France has since increased. 

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Austria announces it will scrap mandatory Covid-19 vaccination law

Austria's federal government on Thursday announced it would scrap its controversial mandatory Covid-19 vaccination law.

Austria announces it will scrap mandatory Covid-19 vaccination law

Austria will cancel its mandatory Covid-19 vaccination law, the federal government announced during a press conference on Thursday.

The controversial law had been suspended until August after coronavirus infection rates slowed. However, it hadn’t been abolished.

The government could still bring back a set of regulations allowing police to check people’s vaccinated status. Those that could not prove they were either vaccinated, or recently recovered from the disease, would have to pay a fine.

“The omicron variant changed the situation”, health minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) said.

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

He added that the law was introduced in a different context and was supported by “a clear majority” at the time when hospitals were full and “intensive care units were on the limit”.

The minister said that the new variant has reduced the effectiveness of vaccination against infections and has caused less severe courses of the disease.

“Even people who are willing to vaccinate in principle are now more difficult to convince of the need for a third dose”.

Rauch said the obligation to vaccinate did not increase the take up of the Covid jab. Instead, it “opened deep trenches in Austrian society”, according to the minister.

The controversial law provoked numerous street protests throughout Austria after it was announced.

The minister said that the obligation itself even made some give up on their intent to get the jab.

Living with Covid

The new variants bring a new scenario to Austria and people will need to learn to coexist with the virus, according to the health minister.

“Living with Covid means that we will bring forward a comprehensive package of measures, and today that means the abolition of compulsory vaccination,” Rauch said.

READ ALSO: Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

The minister reiterated that vaccination is essential, especially as it helps prevent hospitalisations and more severe disease courses. He added that there should be an extensive vaccination campaign before Autumn and an expected winter Covid-19 wave.

Currently, about 62 percent of the Austrian population has a valid vaccination certificate. However, the number has decreased as people fail to schedule booster, or a third-dose, appointments.

The ins and outs of the vaccine mandate

The law was first introduced in February, even though the technical requirements for it to be enacted were not in place. The first stage was purely “informational”, and Austrian residents received letters explaining vaccines and the regulation.

A second stage, when people could have been fined if not vaccinated, was set to start in mid-March. Before a single person was fined, though, Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) suspended the law with an ordinance.