Austria rolls out new Covid quarantine rules for schools

As students and teachers across Austria settle into the new school year, the quarantine measure for children have been adjusted.

Austria rolls out new Covid quarantine rules for schools

The Covid-19 quarantine rule for school children has been reduced from ten days to five.

Martin Netzer, General Secretary in the Ministry of Education, announced that only those sitting next to a child with a positive test result have to be quarantined with the option to “test yourself free” after five days through a PCR test.

Education Minister Heinz Faßmann had recently campaigned for a shortening of the quarantine period in schools.

The change in the nationwide rules is to ensure a more stable school environment for children to reduce the impact of Covid-19 measures on education.

On Monday, school resumed in Upper Austria, Salzburg, Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Carinthia and Styria with an initial three-week safety phase. 

During the safety phase, three tests per week are compulsory, one of which must be a PCR test. Politicians are working on nationwide corona measures for classes.

READ ALSO: A full overview of the new Covid-19 measures for schools can be found here

Already 285 classes in Vienna under quarantine

Last week in Vienna schools returned after the summer break and the Kronen Zeitung reports there are already 285 classes in the city under quarantine measures.

This is despite Education City Councillor Christoph Wiederkehr (NEOS) mandating two compulsory PCR tests each week for staff and students in the capital, in comparison to the once-a-week PCR test rule for the rest of the country.

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

Problems were also reported with the “everything gurgles” Covid-19 testing system after the server for registering the test results was not available on Monday morning (13th September).

‘Discomfort and insecurity’ in Vienna

The Kurier reports that at the start of the school year last week, 32 student representatives from grammar schools in Vienna wrote an open letter to describe the situation in schools.

The letter said there was “discomfort and insecurity” in schools and they expected closures as a result of the current measures.

The group wrote: “Our concerns are skilfully ignored, constant pressure to perform is maintained. The solidarity that we showed towards the elderly at the beginning of the pandemic is now not shown to us.”

The group cited Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and called for compulsory vaccination of kindergarten and elementary school staff to protect students, the purchase of air filters for schools and the return of the FFP2 mask requirement in school buildings.

EXPLAINED: What are Austria’s tighter Covid measures ‘for the unvaccinated’?

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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.