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KEY POINTS: Austria announces new rules for winter tourism

"Strict rules, safe winter" is the ethos behind Austria's newly announced rules for the winter season, the Tourism Minister said. So what does it mean for ski resorts, Christmas markets and hotel stays?

Christmas Market outside Vienna City Hall
Christmas markets get the go-ahead, but with entry restrictions. Photo: WienTourismus/Christian Stemper

“It is important for the tourism industry that they now have the security to plan and prepare for the season. I am very pleased that this has been successfully agreed upon,” Austria’s Tourism Minister Elisabeth Köstinger said as the new set of rules were announced on Wednesday.

The precise details of the regulation will not be clear until it is passed later in the week, likely on Friday or Saturday, but the government has explained the main rules that will apply. Here’s what we can expect this winter.

Markets

Christmas markets are set to go ahead across the country, with a requirement for proof of 3G (vaccination, recovery from Covid-19, or a negative test) in order to enter.

This means that the market area will be clearly defined by a fence or tape, with staff checking people’s Covid passes as well as further random checks inside the market.

Dining and hotels

The rules that apply in these venues depend on the national risk level. Austria has been at level 1 since September 15th, and would enter level 2 from seven days after national intensive care bed occupancy exceeds 15 percent, going up to level 3 from seven days after intensive care bed occupancy exceeds 20 percent.

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).

The rules are slightly stricter for what’s called ‘night gastronomy’ (late-night dining and drinking, such as pubs and bars) — see below.

Ski resorts

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

This means that a pass to a cable car is only considered valid for as long as your 3G proof is valid (ie. if you are showing a negative PCR test, your ticket is only valid until 48 hours after your test). If you bought a ticket before this rule came into effect, it means the ski resort will likely have to check your 3G proof repeatedly.

Apres-ski venues and ‘night gastronomy’ (including outside ski resorts) are covered by the same rules. These mean that at a level 1 situation, these can be accessed with proof of 3G; but at level 2, the 2G rule applies, meaning that only proof of vaccination or recovery are accepted for entry. 

Could things get stricter?

Yes, if the situation requires — but it’s extremely unlikely we will see another lockdown. If Austria goes beyond level 3 with more than 20 percent of intensive care beds occupied, stricter measures can be brought in, which the government has said are likely to apply to unvaccinated people in particular.

Note that individual states have the power to introduce stricter rules at the regional level. Municipalities will also get increased powers to introduce restrictions on night gastronomy including reduced opening hours.

If you have questions about Covid-19 or another issue linked to life in Austria, contact our editorial team at [email protected] and we will do our best to help. 

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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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