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COVID-19

Reader question: What happens if I test positive for Covid on holiday in Austria?

Visitors to Austria need to follow the same rules as residents when it comes to coronavirus tests and quarantine.

Chalet accommodation in Upper Austria
If you test positive for Covid-19 while in Austria, you need to start quarantining. Photo: Datingscout/Unsplash

If I am in Austria on holiday and test positive, what happens? Where do I go to quarantine?

If you experience any symptoms consistent with the coronavirus while in Austria, you should contact the health authorities by calling 1450. If you are using a foreign phone, it’s 0043 1 1450 (note the extra 1). They will give you information about arranging a test and other steps you need to follow. It should be possible to get English-language advice from this helpline — there is no separate number for tourists — but if you are struggling, try to speak to your accommodation provider for help.  

Austria has a range of free test possibilities which are also available to tourists, and if you are advised by a medical professional to get tested, it’s always free.

If an antigen test is positive, you need to take a PCR test and self-isolate until you receive your PCR test result. If the PCR test is negative, you can end your quarantine. If your PCR test is positive, you are required to continue to quarantine.

You may also need to take tests without experiencing symptoms, for example if you do not have proof of valid vaccination or recovery from Covid-19 and need a negative test result to access ski resorts, a workplace, or other venues requiring a Covid pass. Again, if an antigen test is positive, you must take a PCR test and self-isolate until you get the result, and if the PCR test is positive, you need to quarantine — even if you still aren’t experiencing any symptoms.

Quarantine lasts for at least ten days from the start of symptoms or the time of the test (if you didn’t have symptoms), but ultimately it’s up to medical authorities to decide on the length. You may need to test negative for the virus in order to be allowed to leave quarantine, and you will usually need to have been symptom-free for at least 48 hours.

You can quarantine in your own home or residence. You should avoid having contact with other people (by keeping a distance from people you share a household with if it is not possible to stay in completely separate rooms) and this includes not having personal visitors. People you share a household with or have had close personal contact with may also be ordered to quarantine.

For tourists the situation is a bit more complicated, because it might not be possible to self-isolate fully. You should inform your accommodation provider if you are quarantining, so that they can make appropriate arrangements — for example, ensuring that housekeeping staff can work safely, or setting up rules for any shared areas like bathrooms.

The rules for quarantine include making sure you eat and prepare your food separately from anyone in the same household, avoid sharing personal hygiene items like towels, use a separate bathroom from other people if possible, and maintain a good level of personal hygiene (catching coughs and sneezes in a tissue and regularly washing your hands thoroughly).

The only exemption from quarantine is for medical visits. That means you cannot leave to buy food, so you should arrange to have this brought to you by ordering online or asking for help, either from your accommodation provider or by calling 0800 600 600 (open daily from 7am to 7pm) to get help organized by the Red Cross.

You may also need to rethink your plans to return home. You are not allowed to get on a plane, train, or other public transport while undergoing quarantine. If you travelled to Austria in a private car, you may be allowed to leave the country, but this is at the discretion of health authorities.

Because you might need to extend your stay, it is important to get travel insurance that includes Covid-19 coverage.

Got a question about life in Austria? Contact our editorial team at [email protected] and we will do our best to help you.

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COVID-19 STATS

UPDATED: Will Austria bring back face mask mandate to battle rising Covid cases?

As the number of Covid-19 infections and related hospitalisations rises in Austria, many are asking for new measures to be adopted, especially a mask mandate.

UPDATED: Will Austria bring back face mask mandate to battle rising Covid cases?

Austria has seen an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations in recent weeks, with 2,428 people currently hospitalised with the disease, including 118 in intensive care (ICU).

One month ago, just 871 people were being treated in hospital with an additional 47 people in ICU.

The Austrian Federal Government has now said they will make a decision on bringing back the mask mandate by October 23rd. Last week, the National Covid Crisis Coordination (GECKO) recommended wearing FFP2 masks.

According to ORF, the mask mandate could return for public indoor spaces, public transport and in the gastronomy sector. The Austrian Trade Association has already rejected the suggestion saying it would be the “last straw” for employees as the industry struggles with staff shortages.

What are the Covid-19 experts predicting for the autumn and winter season?

The latest report from the Covid prognosis consortium in Austria predicts a rise in hospitalisations in October. 

In a “worst case” scenario, as many as 3,428 people who tested positive would need a hospital bed on October 19th, the latest forecast said. A “further significant increase in hospitalisation is to be expected, with the Covid population in the ICU area remaining almost unchanged”, the experts summarised.

READ ALSO: Reader question: When should I get a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in Austria?

In comparison, last autumn, the country was on an Austria-wide lockdown and on November 28th, there were 2,767 infected persons hospitalised.

However, the experts said there is a very high proportion of incidental findings among hospitalised patients. Only around 22 percent of those presently hospitalised were admitted with Covid-19 symptoms. In the intensive care unit, this proportion was only 12 percent – most people go to the hospital for other reasons and find they test positive for the coronavirus.

Calls for pandemic-containment measures

Still, the consortium warned about staff shortages in hospitals. “The increased infection pressure is currently also translating into above-average unplanned staff absences”, it wrote.

READ ALSO: From inflation to Covid: What to expect from Austria’s winter season

In view of the situation in the hospitals, experts are calling for the reintroduction of mandatory masks.

Virologist Dorothee von Laer from the Medical University of Innsbruck criticised the government, saying authorities were once again “too late” to take measures.

“We are now at the last push to reintroduce compulsory masks indoors so that the omicron wave from spring is not repeated,” the virologist told Kurier.

“How much longer to watch Covid go through the roof? Winter is still long, and hospitals are getting crowded with decreasing staff and increasing occupancy. Mask up! #CovidIsntOver,” Thomas Czypionka, Head of IHS Health Economics and Health Policy of the Institute for Advanced Studies (IHS), said on Twitter.

Currently, people in Austria only need to wear masks in the health sector area, such as in hospitals and elderly care homes. However, the capital Vienna has stricter rules, imposing a mask mandate on public transport.

Only in a ‘state of emergency’

Speaking to public broadcaster ORF, Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) ruled out the immediate introduction of a mask mandate.

He said stricter rules would only be imposed if the situation in hospitals “escalates, becomes threatening, and a state of emergency occurs”.

READ ALSO: LATEST: The Covid rules across Austria

At the same time, he reiterated that the pandemic is not over and that when the government removed the mask mandate, it also announced the rules could be brought back in autumn.

“When the mask requirement was abolished in grocery stores and public transport in the spring, I already said: If it should become necessary again in the autumn, the general mask requirement will be reintroduced there”, he said.

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