UPDATED: What are Austria’s current Covid rules?

As part of the March reopening plan, several measures related to the Covid pandemic have changed in Austria - with a separate set for the capital Vienna. Here's what you need to know.

Austrian chancellor Karl Nehammer walks past an Austrian flag wearing a mask. Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP
Austrian chancellor Karl Nehammer walks past an Austrian flag wearing a mask. Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP

In mid-February, Austria’s chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) announced the country would begin reopening, with most restrictions in place to contain the Covid-19 pandemic being lifted in March and venues such as nightclubs and apres-ski reopening after months of closure.

In mid-March, further changes were announced, including a cap on tests and an alteration to the isolation policy, both of which apply from April. 

As numbers rose, Vienna decided to keep some restrictions, such as the 2G rules for gastronomy, and the federal government decided to bring back mandatory FFP2 masks indoors.

Here’s what you need to know about the changes.

Austria’s “Spring Awakening”

The so-called spring awakening, when most restrictions were lifted, happened on 5th March, with swarms of people visiting nightclubs and parties all over the alpine country.

The midnight curfew for restaurants was also lifted as nightclubs, and apres-ski venues were allowed to reopen. 

The upper limit on event attendees was lifted, and 2G and 3G rules, meaning the need to prove vaccination or recovery (2G) or vaccination, recovery or tested status (3G), were removed in most places.

While at first, the federal government had decided to partially remove the FFP2 mask mandate, it has now brought it back for all public indoor spaces – albeit with a twist. 

On Tuesday, the federal government announced that local operators of larger events (above 100 people) and night gastronomy could implement a 3G rule instead of mandatory masks.

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

The 3G requirement at work, which has been in place since 1st November and applied to all workplaces where you can’t rule out coming into close contact with others, has also been lifted. But from March 23rd, there will once again be a requirement to wear an FFP2 mask if other protective measures are not available. 

Additionally, Austria’s test strategy is about to change as the country phases out mass Covid testing on 31st March. Instead, a more “targeted test strategy” will follow, and residents will be entitled to only five PCR and five antigen tests per month. Workers in elder and patient care and people with symptoms will still have access to unlimited free testing though. 

READ MORE: Austria health minister quits citing exhaustion and threats

Quarantine rules relaxed

People that had a mild course of Covid can test themselves free after five days, if they have been symptom-free for the last 48h. 

There is also the possibility of being released from quarantine without a test after five days. People need to have been symptom-free for 48 hours. Then, they go into a “traffic restriction” for another five days, wearing masks whenever in contact with others and not accessing health facilities, gastronomy, gyms, and major events. 

The Vienna way

The federal government’s are the minimum standard for rules and regulations, and states in Austria are free to adopt stricter measures.

This is the case of Vienna, as often happened during the pandemic, there is a separate set of rules.

Vienna is keeping the 2G rule to gastronomy, though the mask requirement is waived for staff and customers (when sitting down). There is no more curfew, and night gastronomy is allowed to open, but also with a 2G rule.

In the hospitality sector, there is no more G-proof required, so guests can check-in without showing proof of vaccination, recovery, or negative tests. However, the 2G rule applies to the catering areas in Viennese hotels. 

There is no upper limit of attendees for meetings and events but an FFP2 mask requirement in enclosed spaces.

Children and teenagers from the age of six need an entrance test where the G-rule applies to adults. Up to 12 years, the 3G applies, including the so-called “ninja passport” for kids of school age. For children aged 12 to 15 years, a PCR test can be presented and is valid for 48 hours. 

Vienna is also keeping FFP2 mask requirements in all indoor areas, regardless of the G rules, and has not adopted the “traffic restriction” after a positive test. In the capital, people who want to leave quarantine after five days will need to test themselves out.

READ MORE: Travel rules update: Unvaccinated people can now enter Austria

What about tests? 

From April 1st, residents in Austria will be entitled to five PCR and five antigen tests per month in a departure from the unlimited free tests that are currently available.

Covid-19 tests will also be available for symptomatic cases and those in at-risk settings, such as in schools and hospitals.

Additionally, from March 21st, close contacts of a positive case will no longer have to quarantine completely and will be able to go to work or shopping while wearing a mask, but not to restaurants or events.

More information about the changes to testing and close contacts is available at the following link. 

READ MORE: Free Covid-19 tests to be limited in Austria from April

Entry rules

The entry rules for travellers and residents have also become simpler since March.

Before, a general 2G plus rule applied, but now people coming into Austria need to prove they have either been vaccinated, recently recovered from Covid-19 or have a negative test (PCR or antigen). 

If no document is presented, travellers need to register for pre-travel clearance and go into a ten-day quarantine that can be ended as soon as a negative test result is available.

Austria accepts several different vaccines as proof of vaccination for entry into the territory, including the Chinese Sinopharm and Sinovac. However, they are not recognised for 2G proof inside the country.

READ MORE: Will Austria’s vaccine mandate go ahead?

This article was updated on March 25th with the most recent measures announced. 

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UPDATED: Will Austria bring back face mask mandate to battle rising Covid cases?

As the number of Covid-19 infections and related hospitalisations rises in Austria, many are asking for new measures to be adopted, especially a mask mandate.

UPDATED: Will Austria bring back face mask mandate to battle rising Covid cases?

Austria has seen an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations in recent weeks, with 2,428 people currently hospitalised with the disease, including 118 in intensive care (ICU).

One month ago, just 871 people were being treated in hospital with an additional 47 people in ICU.

The Austrian Federal Government has now said they will make a decision on bringing back the mask mandate by October 23rd. Last week, the National Covid Crisis Coordination (GECKO) recommended wearing FFP2 masks.

According to ORF, the mask mandate could return for public indoor spaces, public transport and in the gastronomy sector. The Austrian Trade Association has already rejected the suggestion saying it would be the “last straw” for employees as the industry struggles with staff shortages.

What are the Covid-19 experts predicting for the autumn and winter season?

The latest report from the Covid prognosis consortium in Austria predicts a rise in hospitalisations in October. 

In a “worst case” scenario, as many as 3,428 people who tested positive would need a hospital bed on October 19th, the latest forecast said. A “further significant increase in hospitalisation is to be expected, with the Covid population in the ICU area remaining almost unchanged”, the experts summarised.

READ ALSO: Reader question: When should I get a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in Austria?

In comparison, last autumn, the country was on an Austria-wide lockdown and on November 28th, there were 2,767 infected persons hospitalised.

However, the experts said there is a very high proportion of incidental findings among hospitalised patients. Only around 22 percent of those presently hospitalised were admitted with Covid-19 symptoms. In the intensive care unit, this proportion was only 12 percent – most people go to the hospital for other reasons and find they test positive for the coronavirus.

Calls for pandemic-containment measures

Still, the consortium warned about staff shortages in hospitals. “The increased infection pressure is currently also translating into above-average unplanned staff absences”, it wrote.

READ ALSO: From inflation to Covid: What to expect from Austria’s winter season

In view of the situation in the hospitals, experts are calling for the reintroduction of mandatory masks.

Virologist Dorothee von Laer from the Medical University of Innsbruck criticised the government, saying authorities were once again “too late” to take measures.

“We are now at the last push to reintroduce compulsory masks indoors so that the omicron wave from spring is not repeated,” the virologist told Kurier.

“How much longer to watch Covid go through the roof? Winter is still long, and hospitals are getting crowded with decreasing staff and increasing occupancy. Mask up! #CovidIsntOver,” Thomas Czypionka, Head of IHS Health Economics and Health Policy of the Institute for Advanced Studies (IHS), said on Twitter.

Currently, people in Austria only need to wear masks in the health sector area, such as in hospitals and elderly care homes. However, the capital Vienna has stricter rules, imposing a mask mandate on public transport.

Only in a ‘state of emergency’

Speaking to public broadcaster ORF, Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) ruled out the immediate introduction of a mask mandate.

He said stricter rules would only be imposed if the situation in hospitals “escalates, becomes threatening, and a state of emergency occurs”.

READ ALSO: LATEST: The Covid rules across Austria

At the same time, he reiterated that the pandemic is not over and that when the government removed the mask mandate, it also announced the rules could be brought back in autumn.

“When the mask requirement was abolished in grocery stores and public transport in the spring, I already said: If it should become necessary again in the autumn, the general mask requirement will be reintroduced there”, he said.