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COVID-19 RULES

Most regions of Austria to accept at-home antigen tests as 3G proof again

Self-tests for Covid-19 will once again be accepted as 3G in all of Austria except Vienna and Lower Austria, after the government updated its guidelines to allow regions and the healthcare sector to cope with a sharp rise in new cases.

A test kit for a Covid-19 antigen rapid test
A test kit for a Covid-19 antigen rapid test. Photo: David Gannon/AFP

Proof of either a negative Covid test, a valid vaccine certificate, or recent recovery from the virus (together called 3G) must be shown in a few situations, most crucially in the workplace. In many other areas of society, a 2G rule (vaccination or recovery only) is in place.

According to an amendment to Austria’s Covid law, self-administered antigen tests will be recognised as 3G proof again, if the amendment is passed as expected on Thursday. It will come into effect from Friday.

These tests are often called Wohnzimmertests or ‘living room tests’ in Austria.

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

In order for them to be accepted as 3G, the test must have been recorded in an official system and verified. The test results will be valid for 24 hours from the time of testing.

The reason for the change is the huge surge in new cases caused by the Omicron wave. Austria reached a new daily record of 26,767 confirmed cases in 24 hours on Wednesday, a number the chancellor called “frighteningly high”.

Although Austria carries out more daily PCR tests than most other countries, most regions are still struggling to offer enough, and to get the results back to residents quickly enough for them to be valid.

The exception is Vienna, which carries out more PCR tests than Austria’s other eight regions put together, and will not accept at-home antigen tests for 3G, as a spokesperson for City Councilor for Health Peter Hacker confirmed on Wednesday. Vienna does not accept any antigen tests for 3G, including those carried out by medical professionals, and this has been the case since September 2021.

Authorities in Lower Austria have also said that at-home tests will not be accepted in the region.

This is possible because the national ordinance only sets out a legal minimum framework. Regions can introduce their own stricter rules, but they cannot introduce their own more lenient rules.

READ ALSO: How is Austria enforcing its lockdown for unvaccinated people?

PCR tests are more sensitive and accurate than the antigen tests, multiple studies have shown. For example, Germany’s Paul Ehrlich Institute examined the sensitivity of 245 antigen tests in testing for the Omicron variant and found wide variations in the sensitivity, with none as effective as PCR tests.

Aside from this change to testing, no other major changes are expected when the extension of the Covid ordinance happens on Thursday. The lockdown for people without proof of 2G and the 10pm curfew for restaurants and bars are both set to remain in place.

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COVID-19 RULES

Reader question: Do I need to wear a mask on flights to/from Austria?

The EU has eased recommendations for face masks on flights and in airports, but member states are free to put their own rules in place.

Reader question: Do I need to wear a mask on flights to/from Austria?

Since Monday, May 16th, it is no longer mandatory to wear a medical-grade face mask on flights and at airports within the EU.

But Austria will continue with the rule for now, meaning that masks are required on flights to Austria.

The implementation of the EU recommendation is based on the national rules in individual countries. 

For flights, where a destination country has a mask rule in place, then masks must be worn. 

An Austrian Airlines spokesperson told the Kronen Zeitung: “The easing of the mask requirement is an EU recommendation that must be reflected in a national regulation in order to also apply in Austria.” 

The aviation safety agency EASA and the EU health authority ECDC states that if masks are mandatory on public transport at the point of departure or at the destination, then the regulation should also continue on board the aircraft.

According to current Austrian Covid-19 regulations, wearing an FFP2 mask is still required in hospitals, elderly and nursing homes, public transport (including stops and stations), taxis, customer areas of vital trade, such as supermarkets, and administrative buildings.

READ MORE: LATEST: What are Austria’s current Covid-19 rules

In addition to Austria, masks are still compulsory in some public areas in Germany, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy – all key tourism destinations for travellers from Austria.

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