Will Austria’s vaccine mandate go ahead?

Following the announcement of Austria’s “spring awakening” and relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions, the big question is whether the planned vaccine mandate will go ahead.

Will Austria’s vaccine mandate go ahead?
Will Austria's planned Covid-19 vaccination law still go ahead? Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP

On Wednesday, the Federal Government announced that most Covid-19 restrictions will be relaxed next month in what has been dubbed Austria’s “spring awakening” by Chancellor Karl Nehammer.

From March 5th, nationwide 2G and 3G requirements (proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test) to enter venues will be removed, as well as the removal of the current midnight curfew for restaurants and a reopening for night clubs.

Proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test will then only be required in what the government called “particularly vulnerable settings” such as hospitals and nursing homes. 

READ MORE: Covid-19: Austria to remove most restrictions from March 5th

For travellers entering Austria, 3G rules will still apply but the 2G+ rule (two doses of the vaccination and either a booster or negative PCR test) will also be dropped from March 5th.

As of the same date, the current requirement to wear an FFP2 mask in all public indoor spaces will be relaxed, with mask-wearing only mandatory on public transport, in essential retail stores (which mainly refers to supermarkets and pharmacies), and in hospitals and nursing homes. 

The only outlier is Vienna where the 2G rule will remain past March 5th and it is expected that if nightclubs reopen in the capital they will be subject to 2G+ rules.

OPINION: Austria’s vaccine mandate is politically high-risk with limited benefits

But where does this leave the mandatory vaccination law (Impfpflicht) that is planned to be implemented from next month?

Will Austria scrap the Covid vaccine mandate?

After the announcement on Wednesday, Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein, from The Greens, spoke to ZIB2 about the relaxation of restrictions and said he “assumed” the vaccination mandate would still be implemented from March 15th.

Additionally, Mückstein said it is expected that the planned penalties for unvaccinated people will also be enforced from the same date. 

READ ALSO: Could free Covid-19 tests be coming to an end in Austria?

However, he said it is likely that Austria’s testing strategy will change in the spring with the possibility of the end to free Covid-19 tests (apart from for symptomatic people and official tests), which has so far cost around €2.6 billion.

Mückstein said: ​​”I don’t think that we will differentiate between vaccinated and unvaccinated people in terms of test costs.”

EXPLAINED: How Austria’s vaccine mandate will work

The Federal Government has now asked the Committee of the National Covid Crisis Coordination (GECKO) to devise a new testing strategy for Austria, which is expected to be implemented in April.

In Austrian media, the announcement about the removal of 2G and 3G rules from early March for most settings has led to questions surrounding the future of the planned vaccination law.

The Kronen Zeitung reports that the Federal Government will make a final decision on the implementation of the law before mid March.

Earlier in February, politicians and virologists raised questions over the compulsory vaccination scheme, putting the controversial plan in jeopardy. 

The governors of the Austrian states of Carinthia, Upper Austria and Salzburg are questioning whether the compulsory vaccination law should come into force in March, or whether other solutions should be pursued. 

The governors expressed doubts due to the relatively stable numbers in the hospitals, which are a combined consequence of the current vaccination coverage as well as the lower potency of the Omicron variant. 

Carinthia’s governor Peter Kaiser of the opposition Social Democrats (SPÖ) party said there should be a “constant review” to see if the law is still proportional.

Salzburg’s governor Wilfried Haslauer, who is in the governing Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) party also called for an evaluation before the law comes into force on March 15th. 

Thomas Stelzer (ÖVP), governor of Upper Austria, said he supported the idea of a vaccine mandate but questioned whether Austria should still go ahead with it. 

Stelzer said he felt such a scheme was “useful, but whether it is really necessary… remains open and should be discussed.”

Member comments

  1. Relaxing all/most measures and yet mandating an Impfpflicht is a little incongruous. It appears that (at least part of the) the Austrian government is a little removed from science and are on some kind of ego trip. Of course, I could be wrong…

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Masks against Covid and flu: What’s ahead for Austria this winter

The City of Vienna has confirmed its rule on mandatory masks in public transport stay - and Austrian experts are worried about a 'flu pandemic'. Here's what you need to know ahead of winter.

Masks against Covid and flu: What's ahead for Austria this winter

Austria’s capital Vienna has long kept a pandemic restriction that other states have already dropped: the mandatory use of FFP2 masks in public transport and stations. 

When tourists arrive in Vienna via the international airport, they often take the train or a bus to the city centre and face a strange ritual: at some point during their journey, people are asked to put on their masks – as soon as they cross the city lines, of course.

These rules are not about to change any time soon. Vienna City Health Councillor Peter Hacker (SPÖ) has confirmed to Austrian media that the mask mandate in trams, buses and metros will stay at least until January 15th. They must also be worn in public transport stations, pharmacies and all Vienna health and care institutions.

READ ALSO: Everything foreigners need to know about the Austrian healthcare system

Additionally, people who test positive for coronavirus need to wear an FFP2 mask outside their homes in all enclosed spaces and on public transport at all times. If a minimum distance of 2 metres cannot be maintained outdoors or persons from outside the household are visiting, an FFP2 mask must also be worn here. 

These rules are known as the “Verkehrsbeschränkung” in Austria and are also valid in other provinces.

Adults and children aged 14 and over must wear an FFP2 mask, but children between 6 and 14 years of age and pregnant women may wear mouth-nose protection instead of an FFP2 mask.

Flu pandemic is on its way

Austrian experts have said there would likely be an exceptionally high wave of the flu after hardly any cases were registered in the past two years, Der Standard reported.

READ ALSO: Six things to know about visiting a doctor in Austria

The measures against Covid-19 prevented infections with Sars-CoV-2 and curbed the spread of influenza and other cold viruses.

According to the Center for Virology at MedUni Vienna, only a “slight upward trend” has been observed in influenza throughout Europe so far.

In principle, the influenza vaccination protects against symptomatic infection for four months: “About 80 percent for H1 viruses, about 50 to 60 percent for H3 strains and 60 to 70 percent for B viruses,” said Monika Redlberger-Fritz, a virologist from Med-Uni Vienna.

She added: “But even with vaccine breakthroughs, you are still very well protected against complications, hospitalisations and death.”

READ ALSO: Colds and flu: What to do and say if you get sick in Austria

According to the doctor, it would be desirable for 60 to 65 percent of the population to be vaccinated against Influenza, though. How many flu vaccinations have already been administered throughout Austria is still being determined. 

Unlike the Covid-19 vaccination, the flu vaccination is not organised by the federal government but by the respective provinces, which file a report only after the flu season. A detailed list of the offers in the regions can be found on the Ministry of Social Affairs website.