2G for restaurants, hairdressers and events: Vienna tightens Covid rules again

Vienna on Thursday announced another tightening of its Covid-19 measures, meaning that unvaccinated people will be unable to access venues such as restaurants and hairdressers. Upper Austria also tightened its Covid rules.

Restaurant table
Both Vienna and Upper Austria tightened their Covid restrictions on Thursday, with significantly stricter measures in the capital for unvaccinated people. Photo: Sandra Seitamaa/Unsplash

In Vienna, the 2G rule (meaning proof of either vaccination or recovery from Covid-19 is required for entry and a negative test is not valid) will be implemented in several kinds of businesses.

These include:

  • All gastronomy venues, meaning restaurants, cafes and bars. Note this is gastronomy, not ‘night gastronomy’ (pubs, clubs and late-night dining), where 2G has already been in effect.
  • Services that require close physical contact, such as beauty salons, hairdressers and masseuses. These are sometimes called ‘body-hugging’ services in a direct translation from the German.
  • All events for over 25 people.

In effect, these rule changes put Vienna at level 4 of the national five-step Covid plan. Mayor Michael Ludwig said they will come into effect “at the end of next week”, without providing a concrete date. 

Around 64 percent of Vienna residents are fully vaccinated. 

It is not exactly clear how this will affect children. Ludwig said that in most cases the rule would apply from the age of six, and encouraged parents to get 5-11 year-olds vaccinated, but he did say there may be some exceptions, including for children, when the rules are defined more precisely.

At the moment, children under 12 can get vaccinated in a few places in the capital but Ludwig acknowledged demand is high. He said plans were underway to allow children in this age group to get their vaccine at the ‘Impfstraßen’ vaccination services around the city, with children’s doctors on hand to give advice, also starting late next week.

The region of Upper Austria also announced new Covid rules on Thursday.

Effective from Monday, November 8th, Upper Austria will have a 2.5G rule (proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative PCR test required) in many areas including restaurants, hotels, places like hairdressers or beauty salons that require close physical contact, in indoor cultural and leisure facilities like theatres and cinemas, and in hospitals and nursing homes.

Upper Austria will also use the 2.5G rule for events of more than 25 people, and the 2G rule for events for over 500 people.

In order to facilitate more PCR testing, the region is rolling out more at-home PCR tests known as ‘gurgle tests’ in Austria, and will also launch a vaccination lottery — awarding prizes at random to vaccinated residents — modelled after a successful scheme in Burgenland.

If you have questions about the latest Covid rules, you can contact our editorial team at [email protected] and we will do our best to help.

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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.