From April 1st, residents in Austria will be entitled to five PCR and five antigen tests per month – a change from the unlimited free tests that have been currently available to the population.
The policy change had been hinted at for a few weeks before it was finally announced on March 15th, giving people plenty of time to “stash” some PCR boxes at home. But can they still be used?
This Thursday, a day before the new rules start, the federal government has published the ordinance regulating the new test strategy and clarifying that people with “saved up” tests at home can still use them – but with limitations.
If you have already stored tests, you can still use them at least until the end of April. However, there are some restrictions.
In addition to the five free PCR tests every resident will be entitled to monthly, five other tests obtained previously can be evaluated free of charge. This comes to a total of ten free PCR tests in April.
The stored tests can also be used after that following the five a month limit, saving trips to pick-up stations.
This is especially relevant for the many residents who have boxes – sometimes dozens – of Alles gurgelt PCR tests at home.
The tests, which were first offered in Vienna and expanded to other states, can be carried out at home. The boxes are then dropped off in one of the hundreds of drug stores and supermarkets functioning as collection points.
These free and easy PCR tests were a staple of the capital’s extensive testing policy. Vienna mayor Michael Ludwig on several occasions defended the need for tests and recently confirmed that the city would continue with the Alles gurgelt offers, though limited as funding comes from the federal government.
Testen ist mit Impfen & der FFP2 Masek wichtig, um Menschen aus Infektionskette herauszunehmen. "Alles gurgelt" war & ist für Erkenntnis der Virus-Mutationen wichtig. Und: Durch die Verfügung v Medikamenten gegen Covid ist es auch wichtig rechtzeitig die Infektion zu erkennen.
— Michael Ludwig (@BgmLudwig) March 17, 2022
Exceptions to the limitations
There are several exceptions to the five PCR and five antigen tests a month limitations.
In hospitals, nursing homes and kindergartens, unlimited free testing can continue. Free testing will also remain for residents, staff and visitors at care facilities and health resorts.
People who are 24-hour carers or assistants to disabled people are also exempt from the restriction, as are employees of rescue services.
Additionally, people with symptoms of Covid can still get tested for free without it counting to their five-limit cap. Each state will regulate where and how testing will take place, with possibilities including home PCR tests, calling the 1450 health line, or going to an official testing facility.
Test-Angebot – testing offer
Ausnahmen – exceptions
Verordnung – decree
Einschränkungen – limitations
Pflegeeinrichtungen – nursing homes