Could free Covid-19 tests be coming to an end in Austria?
Federal government funding for free nationwide Covid-19 tests in Austria is scheduled to end next month, which could mean big changes to the testing strategy.
The topic of Covid-19 tests will be discussed at the Federal State Summit between the government and the Covid Crisis Commission on Wednesday with reports suggesting free tests could end when the funding expires next month.
According to Der Standard, Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein has confirmed Austria’s testing strategy will be reviewed at the meeting, although it is unclear whether a decision will be made on Wednesday.
Currently, there is funding in place to provide free Covid-19 tests (antigen and PCR) in Austria until the end of March. If free tests are to continue past that date, a decision will have to be made by the Federal Government to extend the funding.
Chancellor Karl Nehammer has already voiced support for ending free tests and replacing them with a paid service. This call has been echoed by the governors of Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Upper Austria and Styria, who are all members of Nehammer's conservative People's Party (ÖVP).
However, a recent survey in Vienna showed that 71 percent of the city’s residents are in favour of keeping free Covid-19 tests. The study was conducted by Triple M Matzka Market and Opinion Research for the Vienna Health Authority (MA 15).
Vienna has long held the position of the most-tested state in Austria with more than 345,000 tests (on average) carried out in the capital every day.
So far, free testing has played a central role in Austria’s nationwide strategy in dealing with Covid-19.
In other Covid-19 news, a relaxation of measures for schools has already been announced with an end to the mask mandate for pupils in classrooms from February 21st. However, masks will still have to be worn by teachers in classrooms and by pupils when moving around schools.