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COVID-19 TESTS

Can I still use my saved Covid tests in Austria from April?

Austria is limiting the number of free tests to five PCR and five antigen per month. However, many people still have unused 'Alles gurgelt' boxes at home. Can they be used?

coronavirus tests alles gurgelt austria
Corona tests in Austria will be limited as of April 1st, but residents can still use some of their 'old' tests (Photo: Amanda Previdelli / The Local)

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.

Stashed tests

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

Useful vocabulary

Test-Angebot – testing offer
Ausnahmen – exceptions
Verordnung – decree
Einschränkungen – limitations
Pflegeeinrichtungen – nursing homes

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COVID-19 RULES

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.

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