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