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COVID-19

How Austria’s Covid rules change today

Austria's set of stricter Covid-19 restrictions in response to the spread of the Omicron variant come into effect from December 27th.

How Austria's Covid rules change today
Austrian authorities have asked people to keep New Year gatherings to a minimum, and to get tested beforehand. Photo: Artem Kniaz/Unsplash

The measures include a 10pm curfew for the gastronomy sector, replacing the previous curfew of 11pm.

This applies from December 27th and includes December 31st, overriding a previous decision to grant an exemption to early closing on New Year’s Eve.

The measures were announced last week at a press conference by Austria’s Chief Medical Officer Katharina Reich, who said they were intended to show that now is “not a time to celebrate”.

The Austrian crisis commission also recommended against large gatherings for New Year’s Eve, asking people to celebrate only in small groups and where everyone attending had valid proof of 2G (full vaccination against Covid-19 or recent recovery from the virus). They asked people to get a Covid-19 test before meeting people from another household, and said regional leaders had agreed to expand testing offerings.

The rules around events are also stricter as of December 27th.

By law, private gatherings of up to 25 people with 2G proof will be permitted, but if they are indoor and without assigned seating, FFP2 masks are compulsory, and the authorities requested that people reduce their contacts as much as possible.

If assigned seating is available, the maximum number of people rises to 500 if everyone has proof of 2G (full vaccination or recovery); 1,000 for 2G+ (full vaccination or recovery and a negative PCR test), and 2,000 if people have 2G+ and a booster dose. FFP2 masks will also be required.

The commission, called Gecko, will meet again this week to discuss possible new restrictions.

Asked if a lockdown was on the cards, Reich said it was “impossible to know” but that the commission would give an update during the week.

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COVID-19 VACCINES

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.

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