How will Austria enforce 2G checks in shops?

'Access only with 2G' is seen on a sign that indicates the so-called 2G rule (vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19) at the entrance of a store
People without 2G proof have been banned from non-essential retail for over a month, and now Austria is stepping up its checks of this law. Photo: Thomas Kienzle/AFP
Officially, non-essential retail has been off-limits to unvaccinated people since November in Austria as part of the country's lockdown for the unvaccinated, and now the government has stepped up the requirement for checks.

The increased checks for proof of 2G (full vaccination or recovery from Covid) were announced as part of a package of new Covid measures on Thursday, and starting next week shops will be required to check customers’ 2G proof.

The full text of the law has not yet been published so it’s not clear exactly how this will happen — and it poses a challenge for businesses, especially smaller ones.

According to what we know so far, it will be possible to carry out the checks either at shop entrances or at the checkout.

EXPLAINED: What are the Covid-19 rules in Austria now?

The 2G requirement only applies to non-essential retail, so supermarkets and pharmacies are excluded.

The obligation for retail businesses to check 2G proof was already brought in in Salzburg from January 3rd, but next week will be expanded across the whole country. 

Some shopping centres, including Murpark in Graz and ATRIO in Villach, will introduce 2G service points within the centre where people can have their vaccination certificates checked and receive a stamp allowing them to enter shops.

This will relieve shop staff from having to carry out checks at their entrances, though some will also check for 2G proof at checkout.

READ ALSO: Where to find the latest Covid-19 information for your region of Austria

The Head of Retail at Vienna’s Chamber of Commerce told ORF that the rule change posed a financial challenge, noting that some shops have several entrances and that solutions of using a wristband or stamp to show 2G has already been checked do not work for smaller businesses away from the centre.

However, she said that on the whole she supported the change, noting that for the businesses and customers who have been through four nationwide lockdowns, “anything is better than another lockdown.” 

2G checks are already obligatory in gastronomy businesses (restaurants, cafes and bars) and at events including Christmas markets. Most of these venues introduced checks at entry, and these can be done using an app called Green Check to scan the QR code of the customer’s vaccination certificate. Staff can also ask for a photo ID to make sure people are using their own proof of vaccination. Businesses that fail to carry out these checks can face fines of up to €3,600.

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