Covid-19: Austria set to require proof of 3G in workplaces

Austria looks likely to introduce a law requiring proof of 3G in workplaces, after a government agreement meant the centre-left opposition will no longer block the law.

Office workers on laptops
A sudden U-turn by the centre-left SPÖ means plans to require 3G proof to enter workplaces can go ahead. Photo: fauxels/Pexels

On Tuesday, Austria’s conservative-green government reached an agreement with the centre-left Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) in the Federal Council to pave the way for the introduction of 3G (requiring proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative Covid-19 test) in the workplace.

The SPÖ demanded a continuation of free Covid-19 tests past the end of October in the event of 3G in the workplace, which has now been agreed by the governing coalition parties.

In return, the SPÖ will not block the law as it said it planned to do earlier, and more details about exactly how the law change would be formulated and when it will come into effect are expected to be announced in the coming days. The opposition parties have previously unanimously voted against the new law, but SPÖ’s support means the law should pass.

READ ALSO: ‘3G Rule’: How to show you have been vaccinated, tested or recovered from Covid in Austria

A 3G requirement in the workplace means anyone that does not work alone will have to show proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative Covid-19 test. It is still unclear if there will be additional mask requirements for people with a negative test but without proof of vaccination or recovery. 

Tell us how you feel about the plans in our one-minute survey:

Why did the government need support from the SPÖ?

The Austrian coalition government is currently in the minority in the Federal Council, so they needed support from another party to pass laws.

The Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) and the New Austria and Liberal Forum (NEOS) were not expected to back the law, having opposed the tightening of Covid-19 restrictions, but the SPÖ presented a compromise in the form of ongoing free Covid-19 tests.

READ MORE: Covid-19 in Austria: Follow the latest developments this week

If the coalition government had not agreed to this, the SPÖ could have joined the FPÖ and the NEOS in voting against the law and blocking it for another eight weeks.

Following Tuesday’s agreement in the Federal Council, the provisional end date for free Covid-19 tests in Austria has been pushed back to the end of March 2022.

The FPÖ is not happy with the developments and leader Herbert Kickl, who has publicly opposed vaccination, said the law will send the message that “unvaccinated people are evil”. 

What do The Local’s readers think?

“It creates a safe work environment for everyone.,” said a 31-year-old reader from Poland.

“As long as the tests are free, I don’t see a problem in this proposal,” commented a 27-year-old engineer.

“It would make me feel safer and sure that those who say are vaccinated really are,” said a 40-year-old, originally from Latvia.

Another reader expressed concerns about how the rule would be put into practice. “My fear is twofold: a black market of fake certificates, and false security when having 3G from vaccination/recovery if 3G means no masks. Banning people from earning an income is too much. And I say this as someone who has had Covid, is fully vaccinated and gets tested regularly and wears a mask always,” said a reader working as a photographer in Vienna.

“It takes away the freedom of the individual, passively aggressively forcing people to get vaccinated. No good will come from such a decision,” said a reader who asked to remain anonymous.

Similar 3G rules already in place in Italy

Austria is not the only country to pursue 3G in the workplace, with neighbouring Italy already rolling out the new law.

Since Friday 15th October, all public, private and self-employed workers in Italy have to produce a health certificate showing they are vaccinated, recovered or have proof of a recent negative test in order to enter any workplace.

Employees without this proof face penalties of between €600 and €1,500, and salaries will be frozen from the first day that they are without the certificate. Employers are subject to fines of between €400 and €1,000 for failing to uphold the rules.

The law is currently in place until December 31st 2021, which is the deadline for the end of the state of emergency. 

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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.