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COVID-19 RULES

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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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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