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WHAT CHANGES IN AUSTRIA

Everything that changes about life in Austria in March 2022

Spring is on the way, and so are several other changes to life in Austria this month.

vienna buildings
Changes to Vienna's parking rules, Covid restrictions, and a repair bonus are some of the changes on the cards. Photo: Stefanie Loos/AFP

Most Covid rules will be scrapped

This is the big one: March 5th is the date when almost all of Austria’s remaining Covid-19 restrictions will be removed. Here’s a summary of the main changes:

  • Nightclubs and apres-ski venues will re-open
  • The midnight curfew for restaurants will be removed
  • FFP2 masks will no longer be required in restaurants, cafes, non-essential retail stores, hairdressers and beauty salons, and cultural venues like museums and galleries. But they will still be recommended
  • The curfew and upper limit on event attendees will be lifted
  • The 2G and 3G rules will be removed in most places

The main rules that will continue to apply nationwide will be an FFP2 mask mandate in public transport, essential retail (e.g. supermarkets, pharmacies, banks and post offices) and in hospitals or elderly care homes, as well as a 3G rule for “particularly vulnerable settings” such as hospitals and nursing homes.

And regions have the power to implement their own stricter rules. Vienna for example will retain the 2G rule for restaurants, bars and cafes.

The first fines for violations of the vaccine mandate could be issued

The introductory phase of Austria’s new vaccine mandate, during which people who have yet to receive the Covid-19 vaccine were contacted by letter, ends on March 16th. After this date, fines of up to €600 can be issued to people who have not been vaccinated, with police to carry out spot checks.

However, it’s also possible that Austria will reassess the vaccine mandate in light of the re-opening plan outlined above as well as the relatively stable situation in the healthcare sector.

New parking permit rules in Vienna

From March 1st, Vienna’s parking permit system will be expanded to cover the whole city, basically bringing an end to free parking in the capital.

Short-term parking zones and resident’s parking permits will be brought in to each of Vienna’s districts, meaning that in the entire city, parking a car is only possible with either a resident’s parking permit (Parkpickerl) or a ticket (Parkschein) for the short-term zones.

For residents in districts 1-9, there is no change as these rules were already in place. In the 11th, 13th, 21st, 22nd and 23rd districts it’s the first time that short-term parking zones and resident’s permits are being used. For the remaining districts (10, 12, and districts 14-19), short-term parking already existed but the rules will now be standardised to match the 1st-9th districts, meaning drivers can only park between 9am and 10pm Monday to Friday, for a maximum of two hours, in the short-term parking zones.

Click here to read more about how to apply for your permit or ticket.

Last month of free Covid tests?

Federal funding for Austria’s free Covid tests expires at the end of March and the government and GECKO crisis committee have given signals that there will be a change in testing strategy after this. 

We don’t know exactly what this will look like, but we can expect the new rules to be announced at some point in March.

New app launched to support domestic violence victims

This is part of government efforts to crack down on male violence, for which they have dedicated a significant budget.

The app will allow people to send a silent call to police in emergency situations, which police will then act upon by going to the scene without needing to call the user back.

Get money back when you pay for repairs to electrical items

A nationwide scheme allowing people to get a €200 refund if they pay for repairs of electrical items is meant to launch in March or possibly April nationwide, and was on the National Council’s agenda for February 23rd. This will cover large household items like fridges, washing machines, tumble dryers, and coffee machines but also things like computers, mobile phones, electronic toys and garden tools. 

Similar schemes have already been rolled out regionally: repair bonus schemes are currently active in SalzburgCarinthia, Vienna and the City of Graz. They have previously also been offered in the rest of the Styria region as well as Upper Austria and Lower Austria, but those regions have now stopped the bonuses.

We don’t yet know exactly how the national scheme will look or how you’ll be able to apply, but details should be announced in the last days of February or early March,

Spring is coming

Winter is coming to an end, and the official start of spring comes on March 20th with the spring equinox. 

The downside to the end of winter is that you’ll lose an hour’s sleep: the 2022 time changeover to Daylight Savings is scheduled for 2am on March 29th. The clock will be moved forward by one hour from 2 to 3am, which means the night will be shorter. The changeover means it will be darker in the morning, but light will last longer in the evening.

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WHAT CHANGES IN AUSTRIA

Everything that changes in Austria in May 2022

From the return of the oral Matura exam to pool season, here are some of the most important changes you need to be aware of in Austria in May.

Everything that changes in Austria in May 2022

May Day

Austria will celebrate International Workers’ Day on May 1st.

But Tag der Arbeit or Der Erste Mai, as the day is known in German, won’t result in a day off work for most people because it falls on a Sunday this year. Schade. 

Oral exams return for the Matura

The spoken part of Austria’s Matura exam will return for the first time since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Matura, officially called Reifeprufung, is a compulsory exam for secondary school leavers in Austria. It is a prerequisite for higher education such as universities, academies, technical universities and colleges.

The exam consists of written and oral exams (Mündliche Prüfungen), but in 2020 and 2021, the oral part was cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions.

However, the return of the spoken exams is causing protests among Austrian students who say their high school years were hurt by the pandemic and they shouldn’t have to take oral examinations.

READ ALSO: What is Austria’s Matura exam, and why do some want it abolished?

The outdoor pool season is back

Austria’s public outdoor pools are back in business, and residents will be able to enjoy the sun and swim around as of May 2nd. In addition, for the first time in two years, the Bäder visitors won’t have to follow any coronavirus restrictions.

In other years, access to the pools has been restricted, with the vaccination requirements, people had to wear masks, and some Austrian public pools were even closed during the worst pandemic months.

In the capital Vienna, people will have the opportunity to visit some new and improved areas in some of the city’s public pools. So, time to bring the swimming gear up from the Keller.

READ ALSO: Six of the best things to do in spring in Vienna

Austria to reevaluate the Covid-19 vaccination mandate

The country’s vaccination committee is meeting again this May to report back to the government on the mandatory vaccination law.

The controversial regulation mandating a Covid-19 vaccine to all adult residents was suspended in March, just days before a new state was set to start, one that would have unvaccinated people receive fines at random checks.

The suspension came just as support for the law dwindled; other countries failed to institute similar measures. The official reason for halting the action was that the “burden on fundamental rights” was no longer necessary as the omicron wave of the coronavirus resulted in fewer severe cases.

That will be discussed again as the country faces the possibility of a new Covid wave in autumn, just as the immunisation brought by vaccines or infection goes down.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What are Austria’s plans to bring back the vaccine mandate?

Two holidays await Austrians… sort of

While there may be no May Day holiday, there are a couple of breaks coming up. 

On Thursday, May 26th, the country will have an official holiday that celebrates Jesus’ ascent into heaven, the aptly named Christi Himmelfahrt.

Of course, not every Christian holiday is an official day off in Austria (i.e. Good Friday), but prepare to do your grocery shopping ahead because most stores and supermarkets will be closed on May 26th.

READ ALSO: Why everything in Austria is closed on Sundays and holidays – and what to do instead

Final days to apply for some hardship funds, and more money for pensioners

Although most pandemic support for art and culture finished at the end of March 2022, it is still possible for people to make applications for hardship funds for artists until May 2nd.

The State Secretary announced that 155.9 million euros had been paid out through the bridging fund for artists alone, enabling 10,005 people to be supported. Only 3.6 per cent of the applications made were rejected, broadcaster ORF reports.

After payroll and income tax changes, pensioners should receive more money from May, Heute reported.

In May, it is also expected that the federal government will introduce several measures to ease the increasing cost of living, including one-off bonuses and tax breaks.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why are fuel prices increasing faster in Austria than elsewhere in the EU?

Grande news for Tyroleans as first Starbucks opens in the state

After 20 years in Austria, the major US coffee chain Starbucks is opening up a store in the country’s West, more precisely in Tirol, by the end of May.

As a country with a strong coffee-drinking tradition and great pride in its old and classic coffee houses, Austria does not have many large chain stores.

The history of Starbucks in Austria is particularly controversial: the first shop that the mammoth brand opened, in the prestigious Kärtnerstrasse in Vienna, closed on short notice in 2015.

The Seattle-based company is only present in Vienna and Salzburg. It will now brew up in Innsbruck, where its 19th Austrian store will be inaugurated. When it first came to Austria in 2001, it had promised 60 coffee houses would be set up in the country within five years.

READ ALSO: Caffeine, war and Freud: A history of Vienna’s iconic coffee houses

ÖVP party congress to take place

The ÖVP-tag, when chancellor Karl Nehammer will be officially appointed as the party leader, will take place on May 14th.

The event this year is particularly relevant as it will be the first public political appearance of former chancellor Sebastian Kurz since his resignation and retirement from politics after allegations of corruption in 2021.

On his social media, Kurz thanked the party for the invitation and confirmed his presence at the event but denied all speculation that he was considering a return to public life. “I can rule this out 100 per cent. My future is in the private sector”, he said.

READ ALSO: What’s going on with Austrian politics?

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