Salzburg tightens Covid measures after ‘very high risk’ classification

A hairdresser and customer wearing face masks at a hair salon
A hairdresser and her customer wear FFP2 masks at an Austrian salon. Photo: Alex Halada/AFP
Salzburg on Friday increased its Covid-19 restrictions, including an FFP2 mask mandate in retail, after the region was moved into the "red" or "very high risk" category due to its infection rate.

The new measures will be in force from Monday, October 18th, and mean that people in Salzburg must wear an FFP2 mask while inside any retail store.

The masks must also be worn by all customers in businesses that require a close contact with stuff, such as hairdressers, beauty salons, and masseurs. These businesses are sometimes called “body-hugging services” in Austria, a translation from the German körpernahe which roughly means “close physical contact”.

Currently the rule is that everyone must wear the masks in essential stores such as supermarkets and pharmacies, but only people without proof of vaccination or recovery need to wear them in other retail venues, but the new rule covers everyone regardless of vaccination status.

Salzburg follows Vienna in tightening its measures, after the capital mandated FFP2 masks in retail in September amid rising incidence rates.

Salzburg’s rule change has no time limit, but state health official Christian Stöckl said at a press briefing announcing the new measures: “If the situation improves again, it could be lifted.”

It comes after the state was classed as “very high risk” due to its seven-day incidence rate of 204 new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people, which contributed to its overall risk figure rising to 103.1, pushing it into the very high risk category.

In addition to the new state-wide restrictions, the municipality St Koloman has been issued with a mandatory exit tests.

This means that anyone who leaves the municipality, other than freight transport, needs to show proof of 2.5G (full vaccination against Covid-19, recovery from the virus, or a negative PCR test no older than 72 hours). 

Stöckl said the extra measures in St Koloman were due to an outbreak linked to two weddings, as well as the municipality’s full vaccination rate of only 40.4 percent, the lowest in Salzburg.

“We will use the next few days to provide residents with more information about Covid-19 and the effects of vaccinations. Together with the State of Salzburg and the Red Cross, we have succeeded in setting up a test station and our own vaccination campaigns in the village,” the town’s mayor Herbert Walkner said.

Unlike the mask rule change, the exit tests do have an end date, and will initially be in place until at least October 31st.

But Stöckl warned that other municipalities with a high incidence rate, including some close to St Koloman, may be issued with exit test rules if deemed necessary.

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