Austria’s lockdown for the unvaccinated to end on Monday

After more than two months, Austria's lockdown for unvaccinated people will end on January 31st, the government announced on Wednesday, but widespread 2G rules will remain in place.

Austria's lockdown for the unvaccinated to end on Monday
Next week will see the end to one of Austria's most stringent Covid-19 measures. Photo: Tobias Schwarz/AFP

The partial lockdown means that people without proof of 2G (full vaccination or recent recovery from Covid-19) are only allowed to leave home for special reasons including food shopping or physical exercise.

Chancellor Karl Nehammer and Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein confirmed on Wednesday that the lockdown would end next week.

Nehammer reiterated that bringing in the measure had been “unavoidable for health policy reasons”, but said that after consultation with the GECKO crisis committee, the government had decided there was no longer an immediate risk of intensive care capacity being overloaded.

There are currently just under 200 people in Austria’s ICUs for Covid, compared to around 600 when the measure was first introduced.

Political support for the measure has waned in recent weeks, with calls to end the lockdown coming from multiple regional governors of different parties in recent days.

READ MORE: Will Austria ease its Covid restrictions soon?

Police were responsible for carrying out spot checks, and at any police checks already being carried out for other reasons, for example traffic controls, police can now ask for proof of 2G. Additional checks focused on areas where people come into close contact with others, such as on public transport, at restaurants, and in busy shopping areas. 

The fines for violating the lockdown for the unvaccinated are €500, while refusing to participate in checks carries a fine of up to €1,450.

However, it remains to be seen exactly how the change will work in practice when the end to lockdown is passed in parliament on Friday, or whether any of Austria’s other Covid measures will be relaxed — Mückstein said on Twitter that “all the other strict measures are effective and remain in place”.

Even before the lockdown for people without 2G was introduced, many public venues including restaurants and museums had a 2G requirement, and that remains the case currently.

When the lockdown was brought in, the main change in practice was that people without 2G were also banned from non-essential retail, as well as libraries and museums.

And as of February, Austria’s vaccine mandate will come into effect. This means that people who are not vaccinated against Covid-19 will face fines, with the first of these set to be issued from mid-March following an initial ‘information’ phase. 

READ MORE: How does Austria’s vaccine mandate compare to other countries?

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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.