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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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.