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COVID-19

EXPLAINED: How will Austria’s Covid rules change in November?

A new Covid ordinance coming into effect in November brings changes for the workplace, winter tourism, and face mask rules.

Salzburg and mountains in winter
New rules are on the way for the workplace, winter tourism and face masks. Photo: Marina Ahammer/Unsplash

3G in the workplace

Starting from November 1st, anyone who cannot rule out coming into contact with other people at their workplace will need to show proof of 3G (vaccination, recovery or negative test) in order to enter.

“Compulsory 3G in the workplace is an important step in the fight against the pandemic. It ensures better protection in the place where people have to go every day and spend a large part of their day, and it also creates additional planning and legal security for employers” said Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein.

Up until November 14th, ‘transition period’ rules will apply, meaning that if you do not have 3G proof you may still enter but must wear an FFP2 mask. See the article below for further details.

Changes to mask regulations

Employees in hospitals, nursing homes and care homes for the elderly will still need to wear face masks in addition to providing proof of 3G. The same applies to visitors.

But in other workplaces, employees who show proof of 3G will no longer need to wear masks. This means that staff in supermarkets for example will not need to wear them, and the change is made possible by the 3G requirement in workplaces. 

For customers and guests, there is no big change to mask rules. This means FFP2 masks will still be required in supermarkets, pharmacies and on public transport regardless of vaccination status, but not in areas where you need to show proof of 3G. In areas like non-essential retail and museums, either an FFP2 mask of proof of 3G will be required.

Winter tourism rules

Austria’s Tourism Minister Elisabeth Köstinger summarized the ethos behind the regulations as “strict rules, safe winter”. 

Christmas markets are set to go ahead across the country, with a requirement for proof of 3G which will be regulated through random spot checks. This means that the market area will be clearly defined by a fence or tape, with staff checking people’s Covid passes.

Proof of 3G will also be mandatory in cable cars as of November 15th, except in situations where the cable car is being used as a means of public transport, for example by local residents.

Apres-ski venues and ‘night gastronomy’ (evening dining and drinking, such as pubs, clubs and bars) are covered by the same rules. These mean that at a level 1 situation, these can be accessed with proof of 3G; at level 2, rapid antigen self-tests are no longer accepted as 3G; and at level 3, the 2.5G rule applies (proof of vaccination, recovery or a PCR test only, not an antigen test, even if it was carried out by a professional).

Note that individual states have the power to introduce stricter rules at the regional level.

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COVID-19 VACCINES

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.

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