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How is Austria enforcing its lockdown for unvaccinated people?

Austria's nationwide lockdown was lifted on Sunday, but only for people with proof of Covid-19 vaccination or recovery, while those without may only leave their homes for certain specified reasons. But enforcing a partial lockdown is a huge challenge.

Police patrol
The main responsibility for checks falls to the police, who can issue fines of up to €1,450 to individuals. Photo: Armando Babani/AFP

Austria’s partial lockdown applies to people who do not have proof of so-called 2G: either full vaccination against Covid-19 or evidence of recovery from the virus in the past 180 days.

There are additional exceptions for under-12s who are exempt from the requirement, children aged 12-15 who can instead show a negative test, and people who have had a first dose of a Covid vaccine, who can show this together with a negative PCR test.

The lockdown has been in place for unvaccinated people since November 15th, a week before a nationwide lockdown was brought in, and it remains in place after the nationwide lockdown was lifted.

That leaves around 1.6 million unvaccinated people affected by the current lockdown, under which they may only leave their home for certain specified reasons. These include:

  • Essential errands (such as buying food or medicine)
  • Attending work or education
  • Caring for people in need
  • Healthcare, including attending Covid-19 vaccinations
  • Basic religious needs
  • Caring for animals
  • Necessary administrative procedures that cannot be done online
  • Participating in elections
  • Avoiding an immediate danger to life, health or property 

There are also exceptions covering “exercising family rights and duties with close relatives and contacts” and “physical and mental relaxation outdoors with close contacts”. There is no time limit on how long you can leave your home each day, and no form to fill in as has been the case in France and Italy for example.

People without proof of 2G (full vaccination against the virus, or recovery within the last 180 days) had already been banned from restaurants, hairdressers and salons, cinemas and theatres, and large events under rules brought in on November 8th. At those venues, checks should be carried out by business owners.

During the lockdown, people without 2G are now also banned from non-essential retail, as well as libraries and museums. 

Police are responsible for carrying out spot checks, and at any police checks already being carried out for other reasons, for example traffic controls, police can now ask for proof of 2G.

There will be additional checks focused on areas where people come into close contact with others, such as on public transport, at restaurants, and in busy shopping areas. This effectively means a requirement for people who do meet the 2G criteria to carry valid proof with them when leaving the house.

The fines for violating the lockdown for the unvaccinated are €500, while refusing to participate in checks carries a fine of up to €1,450. Business owners meanwhile face fines of up to €3,600 if they do not check and enforce the 2G rule.

It is even possible to be detained by police in the event of refusal to cooperate. People who refuse to show their ID can be detained until their identity can be established.

The lockdown currently only applies to people without proof of 2G, after the nationwide lockdown was lifted (a regional lockdown remains in place for everyone in one region, Upper Austria, until December 17th).

But that doesn’t mean that vaccinated people will be unaffected by new Covid measures if the situation remains this serious, with hospitals under strain. In a TV interview on Sunday December 12th, new Chancellor Karl Nehammer admitted that further lockdowns for the whole population are no longer ruled out.

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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.