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UPDATED: These Covid rules apply in Austrian schools from Monday

Covid-19 measures for school have been announced ahead of the start of the new school year in Austria.

UPDATED: These Covid rules apply in Austrian schools from Monday
Austria has put in place a range of new rules when school goes back after the summer holidays. Photo by marco fileccia on Unsplash

As teachers and parents prepare for the start of the new school year, the Minister of Education Heinz Faßmann (ÖVP) has now confirmed Covid-19 measures for schools.

A two-week “safety phase” was initially announced, but that has now been extended to three weeks as Covid-19 cases across the country continue to rise.

The safety phase will include a requirement for staff and students to wear a mask outside of the classroom but not while sitting in class.

Faßmann confirmed the safety phase will also include compulsory Covid-19 tests for students and teachers, regardless of vaccination status.

This will then be followed by the existing nationwide 3G rule, which means students and teachers will have to show proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test to attend school.

However, if the incidence rate in a federal state is below 100, then students can take an antigen test voluntarily.

If the incidence rate is between 101 and 200, the risk is classified as medium, which means masks are required outside of class and unvaccinated teachers and students have to test three times a week.

If the incidence rate rises above 200, masks will also have to be worn while seated in class.

Faßmann first announced the measures during a visit to a summer school on Tuesday 24th August, where he rejected the possibility of compulsory vaccination for teachers.

On Wednesday, Faßmann said the Federal Government intends to avoid comprehensive school closures during the autumn and winter.

How will the new rules work?

In the first three weeks of the new school term, both students and teachers will have to take three Covid-19 tests each week. One of them must be a PCR test.

According to Kronen Zeitung, it is expected the testing regime will start on Monday with a nasal antigen test and a PCR test. The reason for both tests is the result from an antigen test takes around 15 minutes, but the PCR can take around 24 hours.

READ MORE: Covid hospitalisations in Austria double in a fortnight

PCR test results are valid for 72 hours, so staff and students will then have to take another antigen test on Thursday.

After the three-week safety phase has ended, schools will adopt the 3G rule depending on the incidence rate in the province.

For students, both the antigen and PCR tests can be done at schools, including the “spit test” through a sample of saliva.

Teachers will have to present an external PCR test, which can be conducted at testing stations across the country.

Headteachers will be responsible for collecting the results and informing class teachers, who will then inform the students.

Negative test results will be entered into the Ninja Pass, along with vaccination status. Children are eligible for vaccination in Austria from the age of 12.

The Ninja Pass allows school children to access hospitality venues and sports facilities, like swimming pools and cinemas.

‘Ninja tests’: What are Austria’s coronavirus sticker book tests for children?

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Austria recommends 4th Covid vaccine dose for everyone over 12

Austria's autumn Covid-19 plan includes a fourth Covid-19 dose to all those older than 12 and the Health Ministry doesn't rule out further measures, especially a return of the mask mandate.

Austria recommends 4th Covid vaccine dose for everyone over 12

Austria’s Health Ministry and the country’s National Immunisation Panel (NIG) have recommended a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine to the general population ahead of autumn.

Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) and physician Herwig Kollaritsch of the Immunisation Panel have requested people take the vaccination before the cold months, reiterating that the Covid-19 vaccine is safe and protects against more severe courses of the disease.

“You can do a lot before autumn. Don’t wait until the numbers rise. Get vaccinated, take the booster shots”, Kollaritsch said in a press conference this Wednesday, August 31st.

READ ALSO: LATEST: The Covid rules across Austria from August 2022

The previous recommendation was only for people older than 60 or those in risk groups. “After there was already the booster recommendation for the vulnerable and over 60-year-olds over the summer, all other groups are to get a booster in the coming weeks,” the health minister said.

Only 58.9 percent of the population is currently sufficiently vaccinated, as per the recommendation of the National Immunisation Panel (NIG) – which for the majority of the population is three doses – or if they’ve had Covid then two doses and a recent recovered status.

New measures ahead of autumn

The health minister stopped short of announcing new Covid-19 measures for autumn.

When he announced the end of the mask mandate in the country back in May, Rauch had said the suspension would be “temporary” and masks were likely to return after summer, depending on the pandemic, particularly on hospitalisation numbers.

Currently, masks are obligatory in the health sector and on public transport in Vienna.

“We evaluate the situation weekly by talking with the hospital heads in the states. We have a very good view of the Covid-19 data, and we don’t rule out bringing measures back in the future”, he said.

READ ALSO: Vienna extends stricter Covid-19 rules until late October

He added: “It is likely that in the autumn, compulsory masks will again be useful and necessary in certain areas such as public transport or supermarkets,”.

For now, though, the minister said he recommends people to get vaccinated, wear masks where social distancing is not possible, and get tested regularly – even if those measures are not mandatory.

When should you get vaccinated?

The fourth vaccination should come a minimum of four months after the third one (or after a Covid-19 infection) but not after six months of the third dose (regardless of whether or not the person has had an infection after the last vaccine), according to the NIG.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Which Austrian states will allow Covid-infected teachers in classrooms?

For children between five and eleven years of age, the basic immunisation – which consists of three vaccinations – should be completed by the start of school at the latest; no booster vaccination is currently recommended in this age group.

Austria expects vaccines adapted to the omicron variant to arrive in the country before the end of September, the health minister said.

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