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COVID-19

What are the fines for breaching the tightened mask rules in Austria?

As autumn looms and the number of Covid-19 cases continue to rise, the Federal Government has announced new rules for masks - with differences between vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

A customer stands in front of a wall displaying protective masks in a specialized shop selling protective masks on Mariahilferstrasse shopping street in Vienna on April 20, 2020. - After the outbreak of the new corona virus (COVID-19) protective masks are mandatory in shops and public transport in Austria (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)
A customer stands in front of a wall displaying protective masks in a specialized shop selling protective masks on Mariahilferstrasse shopping street in Vienna on April 20, 2020. - After the outbreak of the new corona virus (COVID-19) protective masks are mandatory in shops and public transport in Austria (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)

Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has announced new regulations in Austria regarding the wearing of masks in public spaces, with separate rules for vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

From Wednesday next week (September 15), FFP2 masks will be mandatory in all non-essential retail stores for unvaccinated people.

For those that are vaccinated, masks do not have to be worn although they are still advised to wear an FFP2 mask.

In supermarkets and on public transport, everyone will have to wear an FFP2 mask and cloth masks will no longer be allowed.

The new rules were announced by Kurz earlier this week as part of a raft of Covid-19 measures for the autumn.

READ MORE: Austria to tighten Covid measures for unvaccinated from Wednesday

What are the fines for breaching the rules?

It is expected that the current rules on breaching the mask mandate will apply, which means people could be fined €90 for breaching the mask mandate.

In some cases, this can then lead to criminal proceedings and a fine of €500 or three-weeks in prison.

However, questions remain about how the new rules will be enforced and who is responsible for monitoring the wearing of masks in retail.

What is the reaction to the new measures?

The Austrian Council of Shopping Centres (ACSP) has spoken out against the new rules saying it is not their job to police customers.

Rainer Will, ACSP Chairman, said: “We cannot control it, we do not want to control it, it is impossible.”

According to Der Standard, the federal government has said the issue of compliance would fall under the jurisdiction of police in the form of random checks.

But Hermann Greylinger from the police union FSG said it is not the job of the police to monitor who is wearing an FFP2 mask in shops.

However, the Ministry of the Interior and the Vienna State Police Directorate issued a joint statement to say the police will randomly check compliance with the measures at the request of the health authorities.

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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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