Covid-19: What to do if you test positive in Austria

It can get difficult to understand the exact procedures when people test positive with constantly changing rules and regulations. Here's what you need to know.

a child plays while a man works from home
Work from home schemes have become more popular as more people quarantine and self isolate (Photo by charlesdeluvio on Unsplash)

With record numbers of new Covid cases, it will be challenging to find someone who is not infected or knows someone who tested positive. Currently, one in every 20 Austrians has the virus, and more than 31,000 new infections were registered on Monday, March 21st. 

Here is what you need to know if you or a close contact of yours tests positive for Covid-19.

Firstly, if you only suspect you might have Covid due to symptoms or after being in contact with someone who tested positive, you should call the health line on number 1450. If they classify you as a suspected case, you will be referred to one of the specific test facilities for these cases, or someone will be sent to your home for a PCR test.

The same procedure is valid if you tested positive after a self-antigen test. It is worth noting that the 1450 line works 24/7. Still, there have been different reports from people who don’t speak German regarding responses (or lack of) in other languages, including English.

While you are a suspected case, after a positive antigen or after 1450 classified you as one, you should wait for the results of the PCR test and not leave your home in the meantime. Inform your GP and your employer that you are a suspected case.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What are Austria’s current Covid rules?

If you live in close contact with a suspected case but have not tested positive or been assigned a suspected case status by the authorities yourself, then you don’t need to follow home quarantine.

The PCR test is positive: what now?

If your PCR results come back as positive, you should receive an email or call from the contact tracing authorities – we’ve received reports that this does not always happen, though.

Nevertheless, you need to stay at home quarantined for 10 days. The quarantine can be ended automatically after five days if a PCR test comes back negative or with a CT value above 30 if you don’t have any symptoms for at least 48h.

How should I behave during home quarantine?

If you test positive, you must stay at home and reduce social contacts to a minimum. In addition, you are not allowed to leave your apartment or receive visits, with the exception of medical home visits.

If you live with other people, reduce contact as best as possible: wear FFP2 masks, keep a minimum distance, sleep in separate rooms, do not take meals together, thoroughly and adequately ventilate all rooms after being in them.

Other people should wait at least 20 minutes before using the rooms you were recently in.

You are not allowed to leave your home for any other reason than health and safety emergencies, meaning you cannot leave even to take your dog out or buy groceries. However, there are support systems in place if you need help taking care of other people or animals during this period.

You can contact care service on 01 90 6 40.

What if I am a close contact of someone who tested positive?

The rules for close contact persons depend on whether they are fully vaccinated or not.

Fully vaccinated people (with the three doses or two doses and recovered) no longer need to quarantine. This is also valid for children with two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, if the people involved were wearing an FFP2 mask during contact, or if the person has recently recovered from a Covid-19 infection in the last three months.

READ ALSO: Austria brings back mandatory FFP2 face masks indoors as Covid cases soar

Unvaccinated people were recently impacted by the new quarantine rules for close contacts that allow them to go to work and shopping but not visit gastronomy (cafes, bars and restaurants), fitness centres, or attend events.

There are different recommendations for health and nursing staff as well as in educational institutions.

Useful vocabulary

Absonderungsbescheid: A segregation notice obliges a person to isolate himself from other people as much as possible. This is often referred to as quarantine.
Kontaktpersonen: Contact persons are persons who have been in contact (shake hands, conversation,…) with a person who tested positive.
Ansteckung: Infection.
Verdachtsfall: Suspected case.
Testergebnis: Test result.

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UPDATED: Will Austria bring back face mask mandate to battle rising Covid cases?

As the number of Covid-19 infections and related hospitalisations rises in Austria, many are asking for new measures to be adopted, especially a mask mandate.

UPDATED: Will Austria bring back face mask mandate to battle rising Covid cases?

Austria has seen an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations in recent weeks, with 2,428 people currently hospitalised with the disease, including 118 in intensive care (ICU).

One month ago, just 871 people were being treated in hospital with an additional 47 people in ICU.

The Austrian Federal Government has now said they will make a decision on bringing back the mask mandate by October 23rd. Last week, the National Covid Crisis Coordination (GECKO) recommended wearing FFP2 masks.

According to ORF, the mask mandate could return for public indoor spaces, public transport and in the gastronomy sector. The Austrian Trade Association has already rejected the suggestion saying it would be the “last straw” for employees as the industry struggles with staff shortages.

What are the Covid-19 experts predicting for the autumn and winter season?

The latest report from the Covid prognosis consortium in Austria predicts a rise in hospitalisations in October. 

In a “worst case” scenario, as many as 3,428 people who tested positive would need a hospital bed on October 19th, the latest forecast said. A “further significant increase in hospitalisation is to be expected, with the Covid population in the ICU area remaining almost unchanged”, the experts summarised.

READ ALSO: Reader question: When should I get a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in Austria?

In comparison, last autumn, the country was on an Austria-wide lockdown and on November 28th, there were 2,767 infected persons hospitalised.

However, the experts said there is a very high proportion of incidental findings among hospitalised patients. Only around 22 percent of those presently hospitalised were admitted with Covid-19 symptoms. In the intensive care unit, this proportion was only 12 percent – most people go to the hospital for other reasons and find they test positive for the coronavirus.

Calls for pandemic-containment measures

Still, the consortium warned about staff shortages in hospitals. “The increased infection pressure is currently also translating into above-average unplanned staff absences”, it wrote.

READ ALSO: From inflation to Covid: What to expect from Austria’s winter season

In view of the situation in the hospitals, experts are calling for the reintroduction of mandatory masks.

Virologist Dorothee von Laer from the Medical University of Innsbruck criticised the government, saying authorities were once again “too late” to take measures.

“We are now at the last push to reintroduce compulsory masks indoors so that the omicron wave from spring is not repeated,” the virologist told Kurier.

“How much longer to watch Covid go through the roof? Winter is still long, and hospitals are getting crowded with decreasing staff and increasing occupancy. Mask up! #CovidIsntOver,” Thomas Czypionka, Head of IHS Health Economics and Health Policy of the Institute for Advanced Studies (IHS), said on Twitter.

Currently, people in Austria only need to wear masks in the health sector area, such as in hospitals and elderly care homes. However, the capital Vienna has stricter rules, imposing a mask mandate on public transport.

Only in a ‘state of emergency’

Speaking to public broadcaster ORF, Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) ruled out the immediate introduction of a mask mandate.

He said stricter rules would only be imposed if the situation in hospitals “escalates, becomes threatening, and a state of emergency occurs”.

READ ALSO: LATEST: The Covid rules across Austria

At the same time, he reiterated that the pandemic is not over and that when the government removed the mask mandate, it also announced the rules could be brought back in autumn.

“When the mask requirement was abolished in grocery stores and public transport in the spring, I already said: If it should become necessary again in the autumn, the general mask requirement will be reintroduced there”, he said.