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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 ALERT

‘The pandemic is not over’: Vienna keeps mask rule in public transport

Austria's capital has decided to keep mandatory FFP2 masks in public transport but is dropping them in supermarkets.

'The pandemic is not over': Vienna keeps mask rule in public transport

Austria’s capital Vienna will still have mandatory usage of FFP2 masks even if the federal government is dropping the requirement in the rest of the country.

It will still be mandatory in Vienna to wear masks when public transport, pharmacies, doctors’ offices, and hospitals, SPÖ Mayor Michael Ludwig announced this Tuesday.

People no longer will need to wear masks in supermarkets and other essential trade, though. The decision was taken after a meeting with the city crisis committee and health authorities, according to the mayor.

“The pandemic is not over yet. We will remain on the consistent and safe path”, Ludwig said.

Earlier this Tuesday, Austria’s Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) had announced the country would “pause” mask requirements from June 1st in all but health establishments during the summer months, as reported.

READ ALSO: Austria to ‘pause’ Covid mask mandate from June 1st

Rauch justified the decision by saying that the coronavirus numbers, both of new infections and of hospitalised people, have significantly dropped and maintained a downwards trend for weeks.

“The number of new infections has fallen, as well as the number of people in hospitals due to Covid-19, for several weeks now. This is good news”, he said.

Since the last major easing step in mid-April, the FFP2 obligation has only been in force in enclosed spaces of hospitals and homes, public transport and taxis, in the customer area of vital trade, in party traffic of administrative authorities and in institutions for the practice of religion outside trade fairs.

However, the federal government sets out the minimum standard for the country, but the different states may adopt stricter measures. Vienna has often kept tougher regulations during the pandemic, including a more extended period when only vaccinated or recovered people were allowed in bars and restaurants.

Vaccination campaign

The Viennese mayor also commented on the suspended vaccine mandate law, stating that vaccination protects and the city would have a “corresponding vaccination campaign soon”.

Ludwig added that he would demand the same from the federal government. “All of this is done to protect the health of the Viennese population”, he said.

Austria this Tuesday reported 2,177 new coronavirus infections after 185,230 PCR tests, according to the Health Ministry. Currently, there are 596 people hospitalised with Covid-19 and 57 in intensive care units.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 18,607 people have died from Covid-19 in the country.

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