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?
"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.
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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.
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.
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