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.
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
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.
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.
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.