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.
"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.