EXPLAINED: Austria’s new tighter travel rules

Austria is tightening its travel rules from Monday in a bid to slow the spread of the new Omicron coronavirus strain. Here's what you need to know.

A couple stand next to a pond with a glowing Christmas tree at the Stadtpark (City park) in Vienna
A couple in front of a glowing Christmas tree at the Stadtpark in Vienna. Hotels and restaurants reopen in the capital on Monday as entry restrictions to Austria tighten. JOE KLAMAR / AFP

With Austria’s national lockdown over and Vienna reopening its hotels and restaurants on Monday, holiday travel to Austria is possible again.

But there’s a big caveat: according to the new rules, you can only enter the country if you’ve been fully vaccinated or have recently recovered (within the last 180 days) from Covid-19.

As of Monday, December 20th, the ‘2G’ – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered) – rule applies to anyone entering the country.

A PCR test is no longer enough to get you in.

But even if you’re vaccinated or recovered, if you haven’t had your booster jab yet, you’ll also need to show a negative PCR test for entry. If you can’t do this, you’ll have to self-isolate until you can show one.

You’ll need to prove this with either a vaccine certificate or a proof of past infection (plus a negative PCR test if you’ve not been boosted). 

These can take the form of a doctor’s certificate, an official test result, a vaccination certificate/vaccination card/vaccine passport (including a pdf from an electronic vaccine passport, either on your phone or as a hard copy), or an official/medical certificate proving a past infection, either in German or English. 

Once you’re in, now the lockdown is over, the 2G rule applies at hotels, restaurants, theatres, gyms, Christmas markets, ski lifts, and so on. Many areas also require you to wear an FFP2 face mask.

Bars and clubs remain closed.

Children and teenagers
There are also new rules for children and teenagers.

Children under 12 are currently exempt from the entry rules, apart from in Vienna, where children over six require a negative antigen or PCR test to enter the country.

And you can’t do self-tests either; these aren’t considered valid proof, you must get tests carried out by a professional, such as at a testing centre or a pharmacy.

Twelve to 15-year-olds (of any nationality), meanwhile, can get the ‘Holiday Ninja Pass’ if they’re not yet fully vaccinated or haven’t recovered from Covid-19. You can download the English version of the pass here. Take note, however, that this pass is not accepted in Vienna.

The pass is equivalent to 2G proof for seven days provided you have a valid negative test result from days one to five consecutively; at least two of the tests done must be PCR tests.

Anyone can record the official test certificate results in the pass (digitally or by writing them in), but the pass only counts as 2G proof if you also have the corresponding official test certificates with it. So remember to carry them with you! 

You can find more information (in English) about this pass here; it’s essentially a holiday version of the Ninja pass that’s being used in Austrian schools already.


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Austria recommends 4th Covid vaccine dose for everyone over 12

Austria's autumn Covid-19 plan includes a fourth Covid-19 dose to all those older than 12 and the Health Ministry doesn't rule out further measures, especially a return of the mask mandate.

Austria recommends 4th Covid vaccine dose for everyone over 12

Austria’s Health Ministry and the country’s National Immunisation Panel (NIG) have recommended a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine to the general population ahead of autumn.

Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) and physician Herwig Kollaritsch of the Immunisation Panel have requested people take the vaccination before the cold months, reiterating that the Covid-19 vaccine is safe and protects against more severe courses of the disease.

“You can do a lot before autumn. Don’t wait until the numbers rise. Get vaccinated, take the booster shots”, Kollaritsch said in a press conference this Wednesday, August 31st.

READ ALSO: LATEST: The Covid rules across Austria from August 2022

The previous recommendation was only for people older than 60 or those in risk groups. “After there was already the booster recommendation for the vulnerable and over 60-year-olds over the summer, all other groups are to get a booster in the coming weeks,” the health minister said.

Only 58.9 percent of the population is currently sufficiently vaccinated, as per the recommendation of the National Immunisation Panel (NIG) – which for the majority of the population is three doses – or if they’ve had Covid then two doses and a recent recovered status.

New measures ahead of autumn

The health minister stopped short of announcing new Covid-19 measures for autumn.

When he announced the end of the mask mandate in the country back in May, Rauch had said the suspension would be “temporary” and masks were likely to return after summer, depending on the pandemic, particularly on hospitalisation numbers.

Currently, masks are obligatory in the health sector and on public transport in Vienna.

“We evaluate the situation weekly by talking with the hospital heads in the states. We have a very good view of the Covid-19 data, and we don’t rule out bringing measures back in the future”, he said.

READ ALSO: Vienna extends stricter Covid-19 rules until late October

He added: “It is likely that in the autumn, compulsory masks will again be useful and necessary in certain areas such as public transport or supermarkets,”.

For now, though, the minister said he recommends people to get vaccinated, wear masks where social distancing is not possible, and get tested regularly – even if those measures are not mandatory.

When should you get vaccinated?

The fourth vaccination should come a minimum of four months after the third one (or after a Covid-19 infection) but not after six months of the third dose (regardless of whether or not the person has had an infection after the last vaccine), according to the NIG.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Which Austrian states will allow Covid-infected teachers in classrooms?

For children between five and eleven years of age, the basic immunisation – which consists of three vaccinations – should be completed by the start of school at the latest; no booster vaccination is currently recommended in this age group.

Austria expects vaccines adapted to the omicron variant to arrive in the country before the end of September, the health minister said.