Vienna tightens Covid-19 rules again

To curb surging Covid-19 infection rates in the capital, Vienna is introducing additional, tougher measures, including a vaccination programme for children over five.

The christmas market on Rathausplatz, Vienna
People visit the recently opened Christmas market at Vienna's Rathausplatz despite concerns about rising infection rates in the city. picture alliance/dpa/APA | Georg Hochmuth

Vienna Mayor Michael Ludwig said in a statement on Friday that the city authorities would be introducing the extra measures to “keep in check… the dangerous development” of infection rates in the city.

“People’s health comes first. And it is our duty to continue to act now,” he said.

In the last seven days, there were 443.3 cases per 100,000 people in Vienna, according to the latest figures on Austria’s Covid dashboard from November 11th. Case numbers have increased approximately four-fold from a month earlier.

New level introduced
One of the measures in the five-point plan is the introduction of the so-called 2G+ level – proof of vaccination or recovery and also a negative PCR test no more than 48 hours old.

This new level will apply to all events where there are more than 25 people (including sporting events) and for going to bars and restaurants in the city in the evening.

If 2G+ applies, then you don’t need to wear a mask. 

Vienna City council spokesman Mario Dujakovic outlines the steps on Twitter.

FFP2 masks indoors
Customers will also be required to wear FFP2 masks in eating establishments when they are not at their table or at allocated bar seating. Staff will also have to wear FFP2 masks.

Mask-wearing will also be enforced in all public indoor spaces now. This includes all shops and services as well as in the workplace where there may be close contact with other people. 

Home-working encouraged
All those who work for the city will be pushed to work from home wherever possible as the City wants to lead by example in the hope the private sector will also follow suit.

READ ALSO: Key points: New Covid rules for Salzburg and Upper Austria
READ ALSO: Austria’s Green Pass: What counts as proof of 2G?

This chart from Our World in Data shows sharply rising case levels in Austria.

Booster interval cut
In addition, from Saturday, Vienna residents will be able to get a third booster vaccination only four months after their second dose, not six months as originally planned.

By reducing the interval, the city hopes to stabilise infection rates, reverse rising case numbers and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed.

Vaccination rates in Austria are increasing, albeit at a much slower rate than that seen in other European countries, this chart from Our World in Data shows.

Jabs for over-fives
The new measures also include the start of vaccinations for children between five and 11 as of Monday at the Austria Centre Vienna (ACV), making Vienna the first EU region to vaccinate children of this age.

Children can be registered for the jabs (Pfizer/Biontech only) from Saturday. Because they’re minors, it’s not possible to create a separate account for them so parents or guardians will need to add them as a family member in their own account in the Personal Data (Personendaten) section once you’ve logged in before you can make a booking.

In the pilot phase of these vaccinations, healthcare professionals will only be able to give around 200 shots a day as they will need more time for detailed discussions with parents and children beforehand. 

Vaccination slots for this age group are available every day between 7-10am and 3-7.45pm.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has not yet issued an authorisation for any of the vaccines to be used for this age group but member states have the right to do so anyway to respond to a public health emergency.

The tougher city-wide restrictions come as Austria prepares to approve lockdown for the unvaccinated on Sunday.


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‘The pandemic is not over’: Vienna keeps mask rule in public transport

Austria's capital has decided to keep mandatory FFP2 masks in public transport but is dropping them in supermarkets.

'The pandemic is not over': Vienna keeps mask rule in public transport

Austria’s capital Vienna will still have mandatory usage of FFP2 masks even if the federal government is dropping the requirement in the rest of the country.

It will still be mandatory in Vienna to wear masks when public transport, pharmacies, doctors’ offices, and hospitals, SPÖ Mayor Michael Ludwig announced this Tuesday.

People no longer will need to wear masks in supermarkets and other essential trade, though. The decision was taken after a meeting with the city crisis committee and health authorities, according to the mayor.

“The pandemic is not over yet. We will remain on the consistent and safe path”, Ludwig said.

Earlier this Tuesday, Austria’s Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) had announced the country would “pause” mask requirements from June 1st in all but health establishments during the summer months, as reported.

READ ALSO: Austria to ‘pause’ Covid mask mandate from June 1st

Rauch justified the decision by saying that the coronavirus numbers, both of new infections and of hospitalised people, have significantly dropped and maintained a downwards trend for weeks.

“The number of new infections has fallen, as well as the number of people in hospitals due to Covid-19, for several weeks now. This is good news”, he said.

Since the last major easing step in mid-April, the FFP2 obligation has only been in force in enclosed spaces of hospitals and homes, public transport and taxis, in the customer area of vital trade, in party traffic of administrative authorities and in institutions for the practice of religion outside trade fairs.

However, the federal government sets out the minimum standard for the country, but the different states may adopt stricter measures. Vienna has often kept tougher regulations during the pandemic, including a more extended period when only vaccinated or recovered people were allowed in bars and restaurants.

Vaccination campaign

The Viennese mayor also commented on the suspended vaccine mandate law, stating that vaccination protects and the city would have a “corresponding vaccination campaign soon”.

Ludwig added that he would demand the same from the federal government. “All of this is done to protect the health of the Viennese population”, he said.

Austria this Tuesday reported 2,177 new coronavirus infections after 185,230 PCR tests, according to the Health Ministry. Currently, there are 596 people hospitalised with Covid-19 and 57 in intensive care units.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 18,607 people have died from Covid-19 in the country.