Austria to tighten Covid measures for unvaccinated from Wednesday

Austria will tighten a range of Covid measures from next Wednesday onwards, however these will primarily apply only to those who have not been vaccinated.

Austria to tighten Covid measures for unvaccinated from Wednesday
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz wears a mask with the national flag of Austria. Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP

On Wednesday, the Austrian government decided it would tighten Covid measures as of Wednesday, September 15th. 

The announcement came amid rising infection rates and hospitalisations, including in ICUs. 

From September 15th, antigen tests will only be valid for 24 hours. This has been the case in Vienna for some time, however these tests had a 48-hour validity in the rest of the country. 

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said at the press conference “the answer has to be vaccination and not lockdown”. 

Kurz said the measures would apply to the unvaccinated only, in order to protect them and to protect hospitals from becoming overloaded. 

Unvaccinated people will be required to wear FFP2 masks in non-essential shops such as clothing retailers, stationery shops and other retailers where non-essential items are sold. 

Those who are vaccinated will not need to wear a mask in these areas, although masks are still recommended. 

One change which applies to both vaccinated and unvaccinated people is that FFP2 masks will again be required in supermarkets and public transport; currently, only cloth face coverings are required here. 

Stricter measures were also laid out if ICU capacity is further limited. 

Kurz had announced the bed occupancy in the intensive care units should become the new lead indicator for Covid-19 measures instead of the seven-day incidence. 

If more than 15 percent of capacity is reached for seven successive days, unvaccinated people will no longer be allowed into nightclubs and larger events, i.e. only those who are vaccinated or who have recently recovered from the virus will be allowed to enter. 

If more than 20 percent is reached for seven successive days, antigen tests will no longer be valid for bars, restaurants, gyms, hairdressers and other areas where the 3G rule applies, with only those who have been vaccinated, recently recovered or who have taken a negative PCR test allowed to enter.  

Governors ‘annoyed’ at lack of consultation

The governors of the federal states, particularly Carinthia and Vienna, have expressed annoyance that there has not been more consultation ahead of the government giving information on the next pandemic measures, broadcaster ORF reports.

Vienna’s Mayor Michael Ludwig called for discussions on equal terms and refuted Kurz’s claim that the pandemic was “over” for vaccinated people, pointing out that if intensive care units were filled with people with Covid-19, it could affect vaccinated people needing treatment for other illnesses or accidents.

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Reader question: When should I get a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in Austria?

Austria's national vaccination board changed the recommendations for when to get the fourth dose of coronavirus vaccines. Here's what you need to know.

Reader question: When should I get a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in Austria?

Over this weekend, Austria’s national vaccination board (NIG) released an updated recommendation on Covid-19 immunisation, changing its previous guidance for the fourth dose of the coronavirus vaccination slightly.

According to the NIG, booster vaccinations can be given to persons aged 12 years and older and are recommended for anyone who wants to protect themselves.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to get the new adapted Covid-19 vaccine in Austria

In particular, the 4th vaccination is advised for persons over 60 years of age, persons at risk of severe disease progression (including pregnant women) and persons with an increased risk of exposure (healthcare workers, people in long-term nursing or care facilities, etc.).

The recommended interval between the third and fourth doses is from six months for people between 12 and 59 years old, NIG said. For those over 60 or risk patients, that interval is from 4 months.

What has changed then?

The main difference is the recommendation for those who have had a Covid-19 infection after their third shot.

“An infection in vaccinated persons usually leads to a booster effect (hybrid immunity), which can affect the optimal timing of the next vaccination.”, NIG said.

However, the board specified that infection could only be “counted” after it was confirmed with a PCR test.

READ ALSO: Austria announces new Covid-19 vaccination campaign

So, if you have had a PCR-confirmed infection after your second or third shot and it was an asymptomatic case, you may follow the regular vaccination scheme. However, you can also postpone your vaccination for up to six months.

If you had a symptomatic case, you may postpone your next dose for up to six months only if you are younger than 60 and not of a risk group.

NIG said: “Persons vaccinated three times who have also had a proven omicron infection show a good booster response and cross-immunity”.

READ ALSO: From inflation to Covid: What to expect from Austria’s winter season

It added: In such cases, especially in persons under 60 years of age, the 4th vaccination within a period of up to 6 months does not achieve any further improvement in immune protection and thus, the 4th vaccination can be postponed accordingly.