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

The Austrian Federal Government has revised the country’s Covid-19 strategy, including the end of unlimited free tests.

Free Covid-19 tests to be limited in Austria from April
Unlimited free Covid-19 tests are coming to an end in Austria. Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP.

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.

During the announcement, Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) confirmed that people can only submit five free tests per month, which means people can’t use unused tests from someone else.

READ MORE: Travel in Europe: UK to scrap all Covid travel rules

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.

Mayor of Vienna Michael Ludwig of the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) has already criticised the move and said there might be stricter rules in Vienna.

Ludwig said: “We in @Stadt_Wien were not spoken to about this. Although the test regime in Vienna has continuously provided valuable insights into the development and containment of the pandemic.”

READ ALSO: ANALYSIS: Are Vienna’s tighter Covid measures ‘a mistake’?

Der Standard reports that Rauch was in favour of retaining some element of free testing in Austria.

This followed comments by Finance Minister Magnus Brunner of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) who recently said Covid-19 tests should no longer be free in Austria due to the high cost.

Widespread free testing has long been the cornerstone of Austria’s Covid strategy, with one of the world’s most extensive testing schemes. 

So far, Austria has spent €3 billion on Covid-19 tests since the start of the pandemic. 

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Austrian court rules certain bans for unvaccinated were ‘unconstitutional’

Austria's constitutional court found that banning unvaccinated people from going to hairdressers or cultural institutions was unconstitutional

Austrian court rules certain bans for unvaccinated were 'unconstitutional'

The Constitutional Court (VfGH) has found a regulation which stopped people from going to hairdressers in the second lockdown for the unvaccinated was unconstitutional and, therefore, illegal.

However, the Court of Justice did confirm it was admissible to distinguish between people with and without 2G evidence (proof they had recovered from or been vaccinated against Covid-19), meaning the lockdown for the unvaccinated was itself legal.

READ ALSO: Four options: These are Austria’s autumn Covid lockdown plans

As there were exceptions to the lockdown, allowing people without vaccinations to leave their homes to “cover the necessary basic needs of daily life”, this should have included trips to the hairdressers as part of these “basic needs” on a long term, the court ruled.

It clarified that the rules were at first supposed to last for 10 days, but as the lockdown got extended several times, lasting a total of 11 weeks, the “basic needs” evolved and should have included hairdresser visits.

According to the Constitutional Court, it was also illegal for the government to ban unvaccinated people from entering cultural institutions in autumn 2021.

In this case, the reason was that people were still allowed to go to church and other places of religion, which the court found was “in violation of equality”.

READ ALSO: LATEST: The Covid rules across Austria from August 2022

The court found the ban on entering sports facilities ordered by the Minister of Health during the first lockdown in March and April 2020 was also unlawful, as there was not sufficient justification, broadcaster ORF reported.

Strict Covid-19 measures

Austria was one of the countries which imposed several lockdown periods during the pandemic, as The Local reported. While some were aimed at the entire population, more recently, only those who didn’t get vaccinated against Covid-19 were prevented from going out of their homes without a justification (such as grocery shopping or emergencies).

The country had also imposed a Covid-19 vaccination mandate, but that was scrapped after new variants of the virus evolved into less severe cases of the disease, the government said.

Currently, there are few coronavirus restrictions in place. You can check out all the measures across Austria here.