UPDATED: What is Austria's 5-stage Covid restrictions plan?
The different systems to measure the risk and spread of Covid in Austria can be complicated to understand, so here's a look at how they work.
Austria uses two different Covid classifications; a traffic light based risk assessment and a five-step plan for restrictions in society, which was updated on Friday, October 22nd.
What is the traffic light system?
The first is the so-called 'traffic light' risk classification. This system is used at the regional level and is updated each week, with the regions given a different risk classification corresponding to a colour: 'very low risk' is light green; 'low risk' is yellow-green; 'medium risk' is yellow; 'high risk' is orange, and 'very high risk' is red.
The traffic light system is based on the spread of infection and incidence rate. Although individuals are encouraged to adjust their behaviour based on these risk classifications and authorities can use them to inform measures, the classification does not directly link to different measures.
Localised lockdown measures - i.e. stricter rules in different municipalities and regions - can be put in place as a result of Austria's traffic light system.
Broader measures put in place over a wider geographic area are according to the five-level classification laid out below.
What is Austria's new five-step Covid plan?
The levels 1-5 are measured differently, based on the burden on the healthcare sector and rate of hospitalisation, and they directly trigger different measures being introduced. Each set of measures comes into force immediately after a certain level of ICU bed occupancy is exceeded.
Previously, there were only three risk levels in the plan, but the government added two new levels in late October. Here's what happens at each level.
Level 1: More than 200 occupied ICU beds (10 percent of capacity)
At this level, proof of 3G (vaccination, recovery or a negative test) is required for events for more than 25 people instead of more than 100, and in theatres, cinemas and similar venues.
In all areas that require 3G, antigen tests are only valid for 24 hours.
In evening dining venues and bars, a 2.5G rule is in place, meaning antigen tests are not accepted for entry and you need to show proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative PCR test no older than 72 hours.
At this level, mask recommendations are also tightened. FFP2 masks are mandatory in places which previously required only a normal face covering, such as at supermarkets and on public transport. Unvaccinated people must wear FFP2 masks in all retail venues and indoor cultural venues like museums, galleries and libraries.
Level 2: More than 300 occupied ICU beds (15 percent of capacity)
At this level, evening dining and bars as well as events for more than 500 people and without assigned seating will only be accessible with proof of 2G (vaccination or recovery, but not a negative test).
In addition, antigen tests performed at home will no longer be considered valid proof for the areas which require 3G.
Level 3: More than 400 occupied ICU beds (20 percent of capacity)
This level was updated on October 23rd. If level 3 is reached, a 2.5G rule (proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative PCR test but no antigen tests) will be introduced at all locations where a 3G rule was in place under level 2.
Note that individual regions have the possibility to introduce stricter measures if deemed necessary. Vienna has effectively been implementing these national level 3 regulations since earlier in the autumn, because Vienna uses its own risk level classification in addition to the national one.
Level 4 : More than 500 occupied ICU beds (25 percent of capacity)
Austria is entering level 4 as of November 8th, with ICU capacity expected to pass 25 percent during that week.
At this level, a 2G rule (vaccination or recovery only) is in effect for restaurants, hairdressers, beauty salons, and events for over 25 people.
FFP2 masks are required in all retail venues as well as libraries and museums.
Read more about the changes from November 8th at the link below:
Level 5: More than 600 occupied ICU beds (30 percent of capacity)
At this level, the government would implement a lockdown for unvaccinated people who would only be permitted to leave home for valid reasons.
This last level is introduced if the ICU occupancy rate exceeds 600 ICU beds (or 30 per cent occupancy).
The government is still working out the exact details of how restrictions would work at level 5.