Austria announces new Covid rules for Christmas and New Year

Unvaccinated people will be granted an exception to lockdown over Christmas and New Year, while the 11pm early closing time will be lifted on New Year's Eve, the government said on Friday.

Christmas dinner
Small Christmas and New Year gatherings will be allowed regardless of vaccination status. Photo: krakenimages/Unsplash

The lockdown for unvaccinated people has been extended for another ten days, but the government has introduced an exception on some of the key dates in the Catholic calendar. On December 24th, 25th and 26th as well as on December 31st, up to ten people will be allowed to meet privately without a requirement for 2G proof.

For people with proof of 2G, up to 25 people may meet privately.

Another holiday rule change announced on Friday was that the 11pm curfew for gastronomy will be lifted on December 31st only. 

Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein said that the three-week lockdown for the Austrian population had eased the Covid situation enough to allow a relaxation of the rules over the festive period, but warned that the situation was still serious.

“We have to make Christmas possible within the family,” he told media.

READ ALSO: How to celebrate Christmas like an Austrian

He urged everyone to “continue to exercise caution”, particularly in light of the spread of the Omicron variant, which scientists believe is significantly more transmissible than previous variants of Covid-19. There are currently 75 confirmed cases of the variant in Austria.

He also appealed to people to get their vaccine before Christmas to boost protection against the virus for themselves and their community, whether this was a first vaccine or a third dose. Third doses are possible from four months after the second dose.

The above changes apply nationally and function as a minimum standard, meaning that Austria’s nine regions may choose to introduce their own stricter rules, but cannot introduce rules that are more lenient than the national ones.

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Reader question: Do I need to wear a mask on flights to/from Austria?

The EU has eased recommendations for face masks on flights and in airports, but member states are free to put their own rules in place.

Reader question: Do I need to wear a mask on flights to/from Austria?

Since Monday, May 16th, it is no longer mandatory to wear a medical-grade face mask on flights and at airports within the EU.

But Austria will continue with the rule for now, meaning that masks are required on flights to Austria.

The implementation of the EU recommendation is based on the national rules in individual countries. 

For flights, where a destination country has a mask rule in place, then masks must be worn. 

An Austrian Airlines spokesperson told the Kronen Zeitung: “The easing of the mask requirement is an EU recommendation that must be reflected in a national regulation in order to also apply in Austria.” 

The aviation safety agency EASA and the EU health authority ECDC states that if masks are mandatory on public transport at the point of departure or at the destination, then the regulation should also continue on board the aircraft.

According to current Austrian Covid-19 regulations, wearing an FFP2 mask is still required in hospitals, elderly and nursing homes, public transport (including stops and stations), taxis, customer areas of vital trade, such as supermarkets, and administrative buildings.

READ MORE: LATEST: What are Austria’s current Covid-19 rules

In addition to Austria, masks are still compulsory in some public areas in Germany, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy – all key tourism destinations for travellers from Austria.