Vienna extends its stricter Covid-19 measures

Vienna will extend its stricter Covid-19 rules including around late-night dining and mask-wearing, the city's mayor announced on Thursday.

Beer glass on a table at a bar
The rules apply particularly to bars, late-night dining, and facemask wearing. Photo: Ina Fassbender/AFP

Vienna tightened its Covid-19 measures in October, including requiring FFP2 masks to be worn in all non-essential retail stores and requiring proof of 2G (vaccination or recovery only, not a negative test) for entry to so-called ‘night gastronomy’ venues.

These rules were initially set to expire on October 31st, but are now being extended further into the winter, until at least November 30th.

Mayor Michael Ludwig said on Thursday that after meeting with experts, he had come to the conclusion that extending the region’s stricter rules was the best way to ensure “a safe way forward for Vienna” amid rising numbers of new Covid-19 cases particularly in neighbouring countries and some of Austria’s states.

The medical director of the Vienna health association, Michael Binder, said that although infection rates have remained fairly stable in Vienna over the past month, this was not a reason to relax the measures but rather should be seen as proof that they were effective in curbing the spread of the virus.

The additional measures remaining in place in Vienna are:

  • Requiring 2G (proof of vaccination or recovery only) for night gastronomy and for events over 500 people
  • Requiring 2.5G (proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative PCR test) for restaurants and cafes and for events over 25 people
  • Requiring FFP2 masks in non-essential retail and cultural sites like museums and galleries

Ludwig also said that Vienna recommends a booster dose of the Covid-19 vaccine (people aged over 65 with risk factors, or who received the AstraZeneca vaccine, should get this between six and nine months after their second dose; people who received the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine can get a booster 28 days after their vaccine; and anyone else can get their booster shot 12 months after their second dose). He encouraged all Viennese residents to get vaccinated against the virus as well as against seasonal flu.

As well as Vienna, Salzburg currently has additional measures in place on top of those that apply nationwide, although these only relate to mask-wearing and ‘exit tests’ required for certain high-incidence municipalities.

The Vienna announcement comes a day after Austria announced changes for national Covid-19 regulations from November, including a 3G requirement (proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test) for workplaces as well as new rules for winter tourism.

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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.