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COVID-19

Covid-19: First Austrian state relaxes test and mask rules in schools

Voralberg has become the first Austrian state to relax its rules on mask-wearing and testing in schools, as of Monday October 11th.

School pupils with backpacks and face masks
School pupils wear face masks in a classroom; no longer a necessity from today in Vorarlberg. Photo: Ina Fassbender/AFP

“Vorarlberg is once again a pilot region where normalization steps are being tested and carefully monitored,” the region said in a statement announcing the changes.

Under the new rules, children and teachers will not have to wear masks in school, and antigen tests for students will now be carried out on a voluntary basis, whereas previously they were carried out three times weekly.

The voluntary test offering means children can still use the tests for the so-called ‘Ninja pass’, which is required for those aged over 12 to enter restaurants and other venues under the 3G rule.

However, teachers who have not been vaccinated will see no change in the testing regulations and therefore still need to show a negative PCR test once a week.

External visitors will need to adhere to the 3G rule and to wear a face mask during the entire time they are in the school.

The change comes due to the low seven-day incidence in the region and the comparatively low rate of Covid-19 patients in the intensive care units. 

But if a school suspects an outbreak due to the results of voluntary tests or tests carried out outside the school, there is still the option to introduce a temporary test or mask mandate for specific classes for up to one week. This requires asking the region’s educational board for approval. And schools which are carrying out tests as part of sentinel testing will continue to do so, to help the region identify potential outbreaks at an early stage.

Back in spring, the western state of Vorarlberg became the first to re-open pubs and restaurants, as well as relaxing event rules, due to its comparatively low infection rate. 

“Vorarlberg will thus become a model region again,” state governor Barbara Schöbi-Fink said in response to the Coronavirus Commission’s decision last Thursday to classify Voralberg as risk level one, which allows the changes in schools to go ahead.

However, Schöbi-Fink said it was still recommended that everyone get tested for Covid-19 regularly as part of nationwide efforts to curb the spread of infection.

Member comments

  1. Where can i find covid info, vacination rates, covid infections etc. by each of the nine federated states? We will be travelling to Vorarlberg and the Zillertal area and Saalbach.

    1. Hi Bruce, I would recommend these two dashboards provided by Austrian authorities: https://covid19-dashboard.ages.at/ and https://info.gesundheitsministerium.gv.at/
      You can of course also follow The Local’s updates in English, which you will find all in one place at https://thelocal.at/tag/covid-19. It’s always helpful to hear reader feedback of what you would like us to include in these so that we can make them more helpful for you.
      Catherine

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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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