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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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.