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COVID-19 VACCINES

Reader question: Does Austria’s vaccine mandate apply to tourists?

Austria has some of Europe's strictest measures against Covid currently, including a new law that has made vaccination against the virus compulsory.

Vaccine
A woman is vaccinated at the vaccination center in Amalienbad in Vienna, Austria, February 05, 2022. - Austria's president on February 4, 2022 signed a law making Covid-19 vaccination mandatory for all adults, a first in the European Union. (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)

I travel to Austria regularly, but haven’t been able to find information on whether the vaccine mandate affects tourists. Can you help?

The vaccine mandate applies to people aged over 18 who are resident in Austria.

That includes non-Austrian citizens, as long as you are a registered resident in Austria (ie. you have completed a Meldezettel, which is a requirement for anyone planning to stay in Austria for three months or more). This group includes foreign students, workers, pensioners and many others, regardless of your nationality or if you split your time between multiple countries.

The vaccine mandate will also cover some people with second homes in Austria if they have a residence (Wohnsitz) registered in Austria, including if this is only considered a secondary residence (Nebenwohnsitz). Austrian media including the Kurier have reported that some municipalities have noted an increase in de-registrations of residence which may be linked to the mandate — however, if you are living in Austria without an officially registered residence, you could not only face a fine but would also lose access to various benefits from residents’ parking permits to social welfare.

Casual tourists, whether you come to Austria to visit family, go sightseeing, or for business trips, are not affected by the vaccine mandate law.

Instead, tourists need to be aware of Austria’s entry rules as well as domestic rules around vaccine passes (the 2G and 3G rules).

The basic rule for entry is 2G+, which means that travellers from most countries need either full vaccination or a recent recovery from the virus, as well as either a booster dose or a negative PCR test. There are a few cases in which travellers can follow slightly more lenient rules, including those travelling for urgent reasons and Austrian residents, but in general, people with neither proof of full vaccination or a recent recovery cannot travel to Austria for tourism. At the time of publication, these rules were in effect until at least the end of February.

Within Austria, domestic Covid rules mean that 2G (proof of full vaccination or recent recovery) is required to enter some public venues, although some changes are planned throughout February.

Currently, 2G is required for events, for non-essential shops (until February 12th, at which point there will be no entry restriction here), and for restaurants and cafes (until February 19th, at which point the 3G rule will apply so a negative test can be shown as an alternative to vaccination or recovery; in Vienna the 2G rule will remain).

READ MORE: How Austria’s Covid restrictions are changing in February

One final point which is relevant to tourists: if you aren’t resident in Austria, you may have received a vaccine which is not recognised in Austria.

Confusingly, the accepted vaccines vary for the different sets of rules. For the purposes of the domestic 2G rules, in principle only the vaccines with EMA approval (AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer) are approved), though there are workarounds for people with non-EMA approved vaccines (involving a combination of an antibody certificate and a single dose of either Moderna or Pfizer). For the purposes of the vaccine mandate and for entry to Austria, some vaccines without EMA approval are recognised: Covaxin, Covovax, Covishield, Sinovac and Sinopharm.

And vaccine validity also varies depending on the different sets of rules. For the purposes of the domestic 2G rules, two doses are valid for six months, after which a third dose is required; for entry to Austria, two doses are valid for nine months.

Useful links

FAQ on the vaccine mandate – Austrian Health Ministry

FAQ on entry rules – Austrian Health Ministry

The Austrian Tourist Board

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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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