Could Austria’s mandatory Covid-19 vaccination return in autumn?

The implementation of Austria's Covid-19 vaccination law has been suspended, but there are reports it could return in the autumn if there is another wave of infections.

Could Austria's mandatory Covid-19 vaccination return in autumn?
Could Austria's Covid-19 vaccination mandate be implemented in the autumn? (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)

Austria’s new compulsory vaccination law has been put on the back burner – but this may only be temporary.

On Wednesday, it was announced that the legal requirement to have the Covid-19 vaccine would not be implemented as planned, following a report by experts that it was “not proportionate” due to the milder Omicron strain of the virus.

However, the report warns of the possibility of a massive wave of infections in the autumn.

READ ALSO: ‘Far too little’: How Austria reacted to vaccine mandate suspension

Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) said the committee would meet again and report back to the government in three months, at which time a new decision over compulsory vaccination may be made, broadcaster ORF reports. 

There are concerns that immunity within the general population in Austria, which has been built up by infection or vaccination, will have reduced by the autumn. This could lead to the possibility of booster vaccinations from late summer. 

The authors of the report also state that in the event of another Covid-19 wave later this year, further restrictions could be needed to manage the outbreak if enough people are not vaccinated.

READ MORE: Austria hits record daily number of Covid cases

The report was written by epidemiologist Eva Schernhammer, infectiologist Herwig Kollaritsch, constitutional and medical lawyer Karl Stöger and lawyer Christiane Wendehorst.

The announcement about the suspension of the Covid-19 vaccination mandate coincided with the highest number of new infections in Austria since the start of the pandemic.

On Wednesday, 47,795 new cases were reported across Austria and the seven-day average rose to 32,661. This prompted criticism from Mayor of Vienna Michael Ludwig who said the recent nationwide relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions (apart from in Vienna) was a mistake.

Ludwig said: “The number of infections is at an absolute record level. Removing the protections was a mistake. I always warned about this development! We will continue to follow the consistent path in @Stadt_Wien.”

Since March 5th, masks have no longer been required in public indoor spaces in Austria (exceptions include public transport, supermarkets, pharmacies, hospitals and nursing homes) and proof of 3G (tested, recovered or vaccinated) is not required to enter bars, cafes and restaurants.

The midnight curfew and 3G requirement in the workplace have also been lifted.

In Vienna, masks must still be worn in shops and the 2G rule (vaccinated or recovered) is still in place for gastronomy. It is expected that these restrictions will be lifted in Vienna in April.

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Reader question: Do I need to wear a mask on flights to/from Austria?

The EU has eased recommendations for face masks on flights and in airports, but member states are free to put their own rules in place.

Reader question: Do I need to wear a mask on flights to/from Austria?

Since Monday, May 16th, it is no longer mandatory to wear a medical-grade face mask on flights and at airports within the EU.

But Austria will continue with the rule for now, meaning that masks are required on flights to Austria.

The implementation of the EU recommendation is based on the national rules in individual countries. 

For flights, where a destination country has a mask rule in place, then masks must be worn. 

An Austrian Airlines spokesperson told the Kronen Zeitung: “The easing of the mask requirement is an EU recommendation that must be reflected in a national regulation in order to also apply in Austria.” 

The aviation safety agency EASA and the EU health authority ECDC states that if masks are mandatory on public transport at the point of departure or at the destination, then the regulation should also continue on board the aircraft.

According to current Austrian Covid-19 regulations, wearing an FFP2 mask is still required in hospitals, elderly and nursing homes, public transport (including stops and stations), taxis, customer areas of vital trade, such as supermarkets, and administrative buildings.

READ MORE: LATEST: What are Austria’s current Covid-19 rules

In addition to Austria, masks are still compulsory in some public areas in Germany, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy – all key tourism destinations for travellers from Austria.