Covid-19 in Austria: Follow the latest developments as they happen

Catch up on the latest Covid-19 news and current statistics in The Local's roundup as they happen throughout the week.

Covid vaccine
Medical personnel is given the Pfizer-Biontech Covid-19 corona virus vaccine at the Favoriten Clinic in Vienna, Austria, on December 27, 2020 on the occasion of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 corona virus vaccine rollout. (Photo by ALEX HALADA / various sources / AFP)

Overview of the Covid-19 situation in Austria

As of December 28th the 7-day incidence rate (new infections per 100,000 people) was 166.9. Vorarlberg (262.3) has the highest incidence, followed by Tyrol (256.4), while Upper Austria (124.2) and Burgenland (129.4) have the lowest rates.

A total of 36,641 people in Austria are currently positive for Covid-19 as of December 28th, with 826 people being treated for the disease in hospital outside ICUs, according to AGES. An additional 383 Covid patients are currently in intensive care.

A total of 6,597,388 people (73.86 percent of the total population) have received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose, according to the Health Ministry, and 6,290,865  (70.43 percent) have a valid vaccine pass as of December 27th.

Wednesday, December 22nd

Please note: We will be signing off this blog for the holiday season and returning on January 3rd. We will still be covering the news in Austria, so please sign up to The Local’s newsletter to keep receiving the latest updates.

The good news for today is that Austria has reached a 70 percent rate of full vaccination. That brings it above the EU average and the UK, though it has required a widespread 2G rule, lockdown for unvaccinated people, a planned vaccine mandate and early offering of vaccines to under-12s to reach this rate.

Four new countries have been added to Austria’s virus variant list, making travel to Austria harder. They are: Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and the UK. Read more about the rule change here.

And other changes were announced in response to the Omicron spread, namely a 10pm curfew for gastronomy including on New Year’s Eve, and tighter restrictions on events. You can catch up on that rule change here.

The Austrian Hotel Association (ÖHV) reports there has been a wave of cancellations after Austria on Monday began requiring travellers to show a negative PCR test in addition to 2G proof unless they had received a vaccine booster.

Austria’s regions have announced plans to expand testing options over the holidays, including in Salzburg which has reversed a recent plan to close test sites for five days over Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21st

By the end of November, more than half (55 percent) of schoolchildren aged over 12 in Austria had either received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine or one dose in addition to recovery, data published by Statistics Austria shows. For children between five and 11 years old, vaccination was not approved until the end of November, so there is no nationwide data on this yet.

A Covid meeting tomorrow between national and regional leaders and scientific experts will focus on the risk posed by the Omicron variant.

Omicron cases in Vienna have roughly tripled in just four days to reach 266, according to the latest figures shared by city authorities.

According to a report in the Tiroler Tageszeitung, Austria is planning to add the UK, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands to the list of virus variant areas from Friday. This would mean that travel from these countries is only permitted for certain purposes (Austrian residents would be allowed to travel) and a pre-travel clearance form and quarantine would be needed in most cases. The reports have not been confirmed by the Ministry of Health.

Monday, December 20th

As of today, only travellers with proof of 2G (vaccination or recovery) will be allowed to enter Austria, and in addition, people who have not received three doses of the vaccine will need to either show a negative PCR test on entry or self-isolate on arrival until they can show a negative PCR test result. Read more on the new travel rules by clicking here.

Vienna becomes the final Austrian region to remove lockdown rules today as restaurants and hotels re-open.

People who have had contact with someone suspected of having the Omicron variant can now end their quarantine after five days with a negative PCR test; otherwise, they must quarantine for a full ten days.

How does Austria compare to its neighbours?

The chart below from Our World in Data shows how the number of reported daily Covid cases in Austria compares to those in neighbouring countries.

Note that case numbers depend on rates of testing as well as the prevalence of the virus, so this is not necessarily a true comparison of the spread of the virus in each country.

Do you have a question about Covid-19 in Austria? Contact our editorial team at [email protected] and they will get back to you and do their best to help.

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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”