How will Austria enforce 2G checks in shops?

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.

'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

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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Austrian court rules certain bans for unvaccinated were ‘unconstitutional’

Austria's constitutional court found that banning unvaccinated people from going to hairdressers or cultural institutions was unconstitutional

Austrian court rules certain bans for unvaccinated were 'unconstitutional'

The Constitutional Court (VfGH) has found a regulation which stopped people from going to hairdressers in the second lockdown for the unvaccinated was unconstitutional and, therefore, illegal.

However, the Court of Justice did confirm it was admissible to distinguish between people with and without 2G evidence (proof they had recovered from or been vaccinated against Covid-19), meaning the lockdown for the unvaccinated was itself legal.

READ ALSO: Four options: These are Austria’s autumn Covid lockdown plans

As there were exceptions to the lockdown, allowing people without vaccinations to leave their homes to “cover the necessary basic needs of daily life”, this should have included trips to the hairdressers as part of these “basic needs” on a long term, the court ruled.

It clarified that the rules were at first supposed to last for 10 days, but as the lockdown got extended several times, lasting a total of 11 weeks, the “basic needs” evolved and should have included hairdresser visits.

According to the Constitutional Court, it was also illegal for the government to ban unvaccinated people from entering cultural institutions in autumn 2021.

In this case, the reason was that people were still allowed to go to church and other places of religion, which the court found was “in violation of equality”.

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

The court found the ban on entering sports facilities ordered by the Minister of Health during the first lockdown in March and April 2020 was also unlawful, as there was not sufficient justification, broadcaster ORF reported.

Strict Covid-19 measures

Austria was one of the countries which imposed several lockdown periods during the pandemic, as The Local reported. While some were aimed at the entire population, more recently, only those who didn’t get vaccinated against Covid-19 were prevented from going out of their homes without a justification (such as grocery shopping or emergencies).

The country had also imposed a Covid-19 vaccination mandate, but that was scrapped after new variants of the virus evolved into less severe cases of the disease, the government said.

Currently, there are few coronavirus restrictions in place. You can check out all the measures across Austria here.