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WHAT CHANGES IN AUSTRIA

Everything that changes in Austria in April 2022

From new Covid-19 testing rules to initiatives tackling the high cost of living, here are some of the most important changes you need to be aware of in Austria in April.

Could the relaxation of Covid measures in Austria be behind the spike in infections? Photo: Christof STACHE / AFP
Austria "paused" its FFP2 mask mandate Photo: Christof STACHE / AFP

End to unlimited free Covid-19 tests 

From April 1st, there will no longer be nationwide unlimited free Covid-19 tests in Austria. Instead, every Austrian resident will be able to access five antigen and five PCR tests per month.

According to Der Standard, PCR tests will be available through state-specific programs, whereas antigen tests, also known as “living room tests” because they are administered at home, will be distributed via pharmacies. 

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Austria’s new Covid-19 testing rules

There will be a fee for additional tests except for symptomatic cases and for people in high-risk settings like schools and hospitals. 

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

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

The indoor mask mandate is back

From March 23rd, Austria’s nationwide FFP2 mask mandate has been back in action after a steep rise in Covid-19 cases across the country. Austria relaxed most Covid-19 restrictions (including the mask mandate) on March 5th.

This means people are once again required to wear an FFP2 mask in all indoor areas in Austria, such as hotels, museums, non-essential shops, bars and restaurants. An FFP2 mask was already required in supermarkets, pharmacies, hospitals, nursing homes and on public transport.

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

Additionally, the Federal Government has reinstated the recommendation for people to work from home where possible.

Austria still has one of  the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe, as fewer than 70 percent of the population are fully vaccinated.

Higher cigarette prices

The price of cigarettes in Austria is going up again in April due to an increase in tobacco tax.

According to reports, the increase will be around 20 cents per pack, although Benson and Hedges Gold brand could be around 50 cents. 

For every pack of cigarettes sold in Austria, the Federal Government receives about 77 percent of the sales price in tax. In 2021, €2.7 billion in tax was raised through the sale of cigarettes.

Rent prices to go up in Austria

The Vienna Tenant’s Association has announced an increase in the cost of rent across Austria from April 1st.

This means 755,000 tenants could be facing an increase of 5.85 percent, and 250,000 could expect their rent to go up by 5.47 percent.

Elke Hanel-Torsch, Chairwoman of the Vienna Tenants’ Association, said: “Increasing the benchmark rents means additional costs of around €360 a year for an 80 square meter apartment in an old building in Vienna.

FOR MEMBERS: EXPLAINED: Why is finding housing in Salzburg so difficult?

“In Upper Austria, the increase is around €390, in Styria almost €500. In Vorarlberg, where the guideline value is highest, tenants would have to pay over €550 more.”

Hanel-Torsch has appealed to the Federal Government to suspend the rent increase as the cost of living continues to rise.

Households to receive a €150 voucher for energy costs

By early April, most households in Austria should receive a €150 voucher to be redeemed with an electricity supplier. Around four million households should receive the voucher with the scheme totalling €60 million.

The vouchers are used to reimburse energy companies and help Austrian residents with the increasing cost of living. The move has been welcomed by Österreichs Energie.

READ NEXT: ENERGY COSTS: How to claim financial support in Vienna

The scheme is available to households in Austria with an income of one or two times the ASVG (General Social Security Act) maximum contribution basis, which is currently set at €5670 gross per month.

Finance Minister Magnus Brunner (ÖVP) said only 5 percent of households in Austria are above the income limit, which means they cannot use the voucher themselves.

Panorama platform coming to the Wiener Riesenrad

Vienna’s giant ferris wheel, the Wiener Riesenrad, will launch a new offering in April with the unveiling of a panorama carriage to mark the 125th anniversary of the attraction.

The new carriage will have a glass floor, no sides and no roof. Guests will be secured by safety belts and accompanied by a staff member for the duration of the ride.

Prices for the panorama carriage (which seats four guests) are expected to be €89 per person.

Easter markets are back

The famous Easter markets are set to reopen in Austria after two years of cancellations due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

They will still need to follow current Covid restrictions. In Vienna, that means that any areas selling food and beverages will need to have 2G controls – only vaccinated or recovered people can join.

Most markets will open from the first weekend of the month and last through mid-April.

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For members

WHAT CHANGES IN AUSTRIA

Everything that changes in Austria in August 2022

From travel chaos and bonus payments, here are some of the most important changes you need to be aware of in Austria in August.

Everything that changes in Austria in August 2022

Travel chaos in Europe

Summer months are set to be chaotic in travelling, and we have seen examples of airports congested throughout Europe. This will continue during August, as airlines have cancelled more than 25,000 flights from their August schedule.

In Austria, flights end up being cancelled on short notice as staff and crew call in sick with Covid-19, as The Local reported.

Strikes on several airlines and airports in the continent will also affect Austrian travellers who plan on vacationing there.

READ ALSO: Airport chaos in Europe: Airlines cancel 15,000 flights in August

Covid-19 restrictions will change

As coronavirus infection cases go up in Austria, affecting the workplace in all sectors, authorities have announced they will scrap mandatory isolation for those who test positive for Covid-19.

People who do not feel sick will be allowed to leave their homes even after a positive Covid-19 test but will have to follow specific requirements from August 1st, as The Local reported.

The so-called “traffic restrictions” mean that those who don’t feel sick will be allowed to leave their homes but must wear an FFP2 mask indoors and outdoors whenever social distancing is not possible.

Additionally, there are entry bans in hospitals, nursing and elderly care homes, childcare facilities, elementary schools and daycare centres.

The restrictions are valid for a maximum of 10 days and as soon as there is a positive antigen test. But a negative PCR test (or PCR test with a CT value over 30 as shown in the laboratory results) allows people to leave the “traffic restrictions” after the fifth day.

READ ALSO: Austria to remove quarantine for positive Covid-19 cases

Social payments to fight the rising cost of living

Some of the payments expected to roll out to Austrian residencies in an effort to cushion the rising cost of living are expected for August, as The Local reported.

While the most significant €500 sum should be paid out in October, families will get an additional one-off payment of the family allowance of €180 in August.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Austria’s new finance measures could benefit you

Traffic chaos in Austria

The summer vacation months are a time when many people in Austria tend to go to their idyllic destinations. However, for those left in the country, especially the capital Vienna, it’s an opportunity to enjoy a lot of what the city has to offer.

Still, people may notice that the city has become quite a Baustelle, or a construction site, with loads of work being done on its public transport lines, streets and avenues. You can check out the main construction works going on in Vienna this month here.

Traffic will be busy in other areas of Austria, too. The vacation months increase car travel, and several festivals and sports events for the month of August make it an even busier month.

READ ALSO: When and where to avoid driving in Austria this summer

It’s no longer worth it to buy a yearly vignette for driving

From August 1st, it is no longer worth buying a yearly vignette if you are driving on Austrian roads. The many short-term vignettes should be cheaper alternatives instead.

For example, frequent drivers in Austria could buy two two-month vignettes in August instead of the yearly one, saving €37.40. Moreover, from December 1st, the annual vignette 2023 will be available and valid.

The vignette is a small sticker that shows that you’ve paid the tolls necessary to travel on Austrian expressways and motorways.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What you need to know about Austria’s vignette motorway toll stickers

Mariä Himmelfahrt holiday on August 15th

There is only one official holiday in Austria during the month of August, the Assumption Day on August 15th.

It falls on a Monday, so don’t forget to prepare yourself for it, as most shops and supermarkets will be closed on the holiday and Sunday as well (as they always are in Austria).

READ ALSO: Why everything in Austria is closed on Sundays – and what to do instead

The heat should continue in August

According to Austria’s meteorologic institute ZAMG, the probability of above-average temperatures in August in Austria is about 70 percent.

This means it is likely that heat waves and above 30C days will continue in the alpine country. According to the ZAMG, the number of days with temperatures above 30C per year has almost tripled in Austria in recent decades – and what used to be record temperatures is now average.

READ ALSO: Heatwave in Austria: What to do as temperatures hit 40C

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