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COVID-19 RULES

Covid-19: Vienna confirms masks and 2G to apply ‘until April’

On Tuesday, Vienna's Mayor Michael Ludwig announced stricter Covid-19 rules will remain in place in the capital as the rest of the country prepares to relax restrictions this weekend.

Covid-19: Vienna confirms masks and 2G to apply 'until April'
As new variants raise concerns, Austria is keeping its mask mandate. (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)

Mayor of Vienna Michael Ludwig (SPÖ) confirmed on Tuesday that Vienna will remain with 2G rules and the widespread use of face masks – probably until April.

Ludwig said restrictions would only be eased when the number of infections have reduced, which is expected to happen in March.

This means 2G (recovered or vaccinated) rules will remain in place in Vienna for gastronomy and hotels, and FFP2 masks will still be required in all public indoor areas, such as shops and public transport.

The news comes as the rest of Austria prepares for a relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions on Saturday March 5th.

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

During the announcement, Ludwig said he is “very sceptical” about the extensive opening steps across Austria from Saturday while case rates remain high. He also said he expects the 2G rule for gastronomy to stay in place in Vienna for some time.

Additionally, the 2G+ rule (recovered and vaccinated plus booster or negative PCR test) for hospitals will remain in the capital.

What are the nationwide Covid-19 rules from Saturday?

From March 5th, most of Austria’s Covid-19 rules will be removed.

This means the end to 2G and 3G requirements (proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test) to enter venues, as well as the re-opening of night clubs, and the removal of the current midnight curfew for restaurants. 

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

FOR MEMBERS: Everything that changes about life in Austria in March 2022

These proofs are also still required for travel into Austria, but for entry into the country 3G will apply rather than the current 2G+ rule. However, any countries classed as virus variant countries will have stricter requirements (at the moment there are no countries on the list).

Also on March 5th, 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.

Essentially, the FFP2 mask requirement is set to cover only those indoor areas where people can’t opt out of being present.

The re-opening plan was announced by the Federal Government on February 16th following a summit with scientific experts and regional governors, with Chancellor Karl Nehammer dubbing the relaxations a “spring awakening”.

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COVID-19 ALERT

Will Austria bring back its mask mandate before autumn?

As Covid-19 infection numbers continue rising, Austria's government doesn't rule out a comeback of the mask requirement.

Will Austria bring back its mask mandate before autumn?

Austria has seen rising Covid-19 numbers for weeks, and the country’s traffic light commission has increased the risk rating of all federal states, with none currently designated as “low risk”.

Virologists and health experts have given many explanations for rising numbers and forecast that new infections, currently at more than 12,000 a day, could reach more than 30,000 in the next few weeks.

Austria’s Covid commission said that the omicron subvariant BA.4/BA.5 is a decisive factor in the increase, as it is considered more infectious. “Additionally, an increased proportion of travel-associated cases has been observed in recent weeks”, the commission stated.

READ ALSO: LATEST: These are the Covid rules in Austria and Vienna from June 2022

Dorothee von Laer, a Med-Uni Innsbruck virologist, told Der Standard that the new subvariant could be responsible for a new wave as “the protection we have from BA1 infections, and from vaccinations, is not so good against BA.4/BA.5”.

“So people who were infected early on, or who are only vaccinated, have of course some protection against hospitalisation, but almost no or very little protection against infection”, she said.

Von Laer mentioned other factors that likely contributed to the increasing numbers, including the fact that people have stopped wearing masks after the requirement was dropped in most of Austria.

Are masks about to make a comeback?

When Austria’s federal government announced they would drop the Covid mask mandate, they phrased it as a “pause” to the FFP2 masks, which were still mandatory in essential trade and public transport.

Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) said that the mask requirement will be “paused”, as the pandemic is not over yet, and that people should be prepared for a resumption of the rules after summer, as The Local reported.

BACKGROUND: Austria to ‘pause’ Covid mask mandate from June 1st

Many experts believe FFP2 masks won’t be optional for long if numbers continue rising. Von Laer said, “we will probably have to resort to the mask again, even if the hospitals are not overcrowded because we want to protect the vulnerable people”.

The health minister had already stated that it is time people “take personal responsibility” so that they choose to wear masks in crowds or when close to vulnerable people.

READ ALSO: 11,000 new cases: Will Austria reintroduce restrictions as infection numbers rise?

However, he recently added that if the situation “goes in the direction of overloading the health system, then, of course, I am also obliged to react”.

The minister also said he reassesses the situation every week, observing developments in other countries.

‘We will have to learn’

For Rauch, people will need to learn to live with the masks, as future waves can also be expected in the coming years. He added that we would have to learn to take personal responsibility, make self-assessments, and have solidarity.

READ ALSO: Austria sees scores of flight cancellations after airline staff contact Covid

He also assumes more flexible measures in the future. For example, public transport signs will ask for the mask mandate during morning traffic hours, but not on empty evening trains.

His goal, the minister stated, was to find a middle ground between demanding as few restrictions as possible and exercising caution.

Covid-19 stats

Austria on Wednesday reported 12,509 new coronavirus infections after 169,948 PCR tests, according to the Health Ministry.

There were 856 people in hospitals with Covid-19 and 47 in intensive care. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 18,779 people have died from the disease.

The country has just over 61 percent of its population with a valid vaccination pass.

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