EXPLAINED: Can I leave Austria to go on holiday during the lockdown?
Austria went into nationwide lockdown on Monday, with people largely confined to their homes. Under what circumstances can I leave the country?
As of Monday, November 22nd, Austria has gone into a nationwide lockdown. Whether for work, travel or to visit family, is it possible to escape the lockdown and head abroad?
Here’s what you need to know.
What are the rules of the lockdown?
Bars, restaurants and shops will be forced to close, while people will be restricted from leaving their home other than for a handful of exceptional reasons, including shopping and exercise.
While the lockdown is expected to run until December 12th for the vaccinated along with those who have recently had the virus and recovered, there is no deadline to the lockdown for the unvaccinated.
A compulsory vaccination requirement will come into place from February.
Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg made the announcements at a press conference on Friday.
What are the exceptions to the stay-at-home order?
Austria’s stay-at-home order, sometimes discussed as a 24-hour curfew, requires that people stay at home other than for the “necessary basic needs of life”.
While this has not been extensively defined as part of the new lockdown order, the language is the exact same as that used during Austria’s previous Covid lockdowns.
At that time, the Austrian government clarified what people are allowed to do on several occasions to include visiting close family and friends, go to the doctor, exercise, shopping and going to work.
You are also permitted to leave the house to avert danger.
Unlike a handful of countries including the United Kingdom and Australia who put in place restrictions on allowing people to leave the country, Austria never put in place any restriction on people leaving the country and is not expected to do so this time around.
Where people encountered difficulties, it usually related to restrictions put in place by another country on being allowed to enter, rather than any rule put in place by Austria.
Can I go on holiday during the lockdown?
Under the lockdown rules during winter of 2020/2021, Austrian residents were clearly allowed to leave Austria to visit close family members, partners or for professional reasons.
Travelling to a second home outside of Austria is also permitted, Kurier reports.
Therefore, as visiting family fits within the “necessary basic needs of life”, foreigners who live in Austria will not be prevented from heading to their countries of origin.
They will also not be prevented from returning, provided their residency permits and visas remain valid.
Whether you can leave Austria to go on holiday however remains a little less clear, although all of Austria’s neighbours remain open to arrivals from Austria.
As of Monday, November 22nd, the travel advice from the Austrian Foreign Ministry still has all EU countries coloured green, i.e. meaning that there are no restrictions.
It appears that while the government does not want to encourage people to head abroad on beach holidays by expressly saying this is permitted, there is little the government can do to prevent you from leaving.
As written by Austrian media outlet Salzburg Nachrichten on Monday, “Anyone who wants to escape the lockdown by taking a long vacation trip abroad should be able to do so. It could only become problematic if the return takes place during the lockdown and none of the exceptions can be made credible during a police check.”
Constitutional and administrative lawyer Peter Bußjäger told Kurier during the previous lockdown that trips abroad are “officially not forbidden” and that an effort to fine someone for going on vacation “would probably not hold up in court”.
"Prohibition norms have to be precise, but the regulation is not enough at this point," he said.
Bußjäger said a court would be likely to strike down an attempt to prevent someone from staying in a hotel abroad on a holiday - primarily as visits to second homes are allowed.
Bußjäger said however that the reason for heading abroad would be relevant in the court’s decision.
"It is understandable that there is a higher risk of infection in a hotel than, for example, when hiking," he said.
Even deciding to go abroad for a beach holiday would be looked at more favourably by the courts than, for instance, going abroad to stay in a thermal bath hotel, Bußjäger said.
Please keep in mind that this report has been written as a guide only and does not constitute legal advice.