Austria is currently considered to be at level one in terms of its ICU capacity. This level is defined as 200 intensive care beds currently being used for Covid-19 patients, which was reached on Tuesday. The changes mean that from Wednesday, September 15th:
- Antigen tests are only valid for 24 hours instead of 48 hours after the test was taken (this does not affect schoolchildren with a Ninja pass or people coming into Austria from another country).
- Hospital grade FFP2 masks must be worn instead of normal facemarks in essential retail shops and on public transport.
- For those who have not been vaccinated, wearing an FFP2 mask is also mandatory in non-essential retail and in cultural institutions.
- Cultural institutions with an FFP2 mask requirement for unvaccinated people include: museums, art halls, libraries and archives. At concerts, in the theatre and cinema, however, the FFP2 mask requirement does not apply to unvaccinated persons with valid 3G proof. The exception is Vienna, where masks covering the mouth and nose must be worn by all visitors in all cultural institutions.
- Proof of vaccination, negative test or recovery from Covid-19 (the 3G rule) is required for events and gatherings of 25 people or more.
- EXPLAINED: What are Austria’s tighter Covid measures for the unvaccinated?
- What are the fines for breaching the tightened mask rules in Austria?
- Austria mulls banning unvaccinated from cafes, restaurants and gyms if ICU situation worsens
The new mask requirement in retail has led to criticism from Austrian trade association, who asked Economics Minister Margarete Schramböck about how the regulations would be enforced. The Ministry of Health says it has asked shop owners to post signs, make random checks and provide masks and information material. The police and health authorities are also authorised to make spot checks.
Trade association chairman Rainer Will has criticized this move according to the Wiener Zietung newspaper.
He said there was a “general legal uncertainty”, pointing out according to the Covid-19 Measures Act, shopkeepers could face penalties of up to 3,600 euros if they did not comply with the new regulations.
He also said it was not realistic to ask shopkeepers to query health data. Anita Palkovich, the economic sector secretary of the GPA union responsible for trade, said there was “great anger” among employees about the new rules for the food retail sector, the Der Standard newspaper reports.
FFP2 masks needed for church
At Catholic church services, FFP2 masks are again mandatory from Wednesday. There is no minimum distance to be observed, and there are no restrictions on congregational singing. In the case of “celebrations for one-off occasions” such as baptisms, first communions, confirmations and weddings, the mask requirement can be replaced by the 3G rule by agreement.
Excluded from the mask requirement are children up to the age of six and people who, with medical confirmation, cannot wear an MNS (a mask covering the mouth and nose) for health reasons. Pregnant women and children from six to 14 are allowed to wear an MNS instead of the FFP2 mask, the church said. There is no obligation to wear a mask for church services in the open air.
What could come next if the numbers in intensive care in Austria continue to rise?
If level two is reached, meaning 300 Covid-19 patients are in intensive care beds nationwide, Austria will introduce further measures. The next step would mean only those with a Covid-19 vaccination or proof of recovery could go to night clubs and late night restaurants and cafes (the 2-G rule).
Stage three, at which point antigen tests would no longer be valid, but unvaccinated people with no certificate of recovery would be forced to show PCR tests to access venues, will be implemented if intensive care bed occupancy rises to 400.