Reader question: When is Austria dropping the mask mandate?

Austrians still need to wear an FFP2 mask when going to most public indoor places, like bars and museums. When will the rules be eased?

Children wearing masks
Austria may drop its mask mandate after Easter if numbers keep dropping (Photo by MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

As the numbers of new infections slowly fall in Austria, requests are growing for the alpine country to relax the few Covid rules still in place, mainly the FFP2 mask mandate.

After a few weeks of “freedom”, when the country had removed almost all Covid restrictions, the Federal Government brought back mandatory FFP2 masks indoors as cases soared.

Masks are currently mandatory for all closed indoor public spaces, means of transport, throughout the trade, for physical services, in gastronomy (but not while sitting down), in hotels, sports facilities, cultural and leisure facilities, at places of work, in retirement and nursing homes and in hospitals.

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

When entering a workplace, a mask must be worn if the risk of catching Covid-19 is not minimised by other protective measures.

The mask mandate does not apply to people that work alone. Still, it does apply to indoor meetings of more than 100 people unless everyone can provide proof of 3G – the same rules for nightclubs.

When will Austria drop these rules?

As the number of new cases drops significantly in Austria, there have been requests to ease the restrictions, especially with summer getting closer.

Virologist Dorothee von Laer told Austrian media that removing the mask mandate would be “justifiable” if numbers kept dropping. However, she did ask people to take personal responsibility once this happens.

The regulation to wear masks indoors is in place until April 16th, meaning that Austria could see the end of mandatory masks after Easter.

The rules could be extended or replaced by a less strict set, such as regulation mandating the use of masks in fewer places or allowing medical masks rather than only the FFP2 variety. 

READ ALSO: Travel: What are Austria’s current entry and Covid rules?

What are the rules in other countries?

The mask mandate has been significantly eased in many European countries. In neighbouring Germany, for example, a nationwide mask requirement only applies in public transport, hospitals or nursing homes.

In Switzerland, the last nationwide COVID measures were lifted earlier this month. However, different regulations may apply in individual cantons. Croatia has also removed most Covid restrictions, including mask mandates, just ahead of Easter.

READ ALSO: Five spring destinations from Austria – and the Covid rules in place

Italy has a mask requirement for most indoor places – outside in crowded areas, though rules are expected to be eased in early May.

Current Covid numbers

This Friday, 8, Austria recorded 14,085 new infections in 24 hours, according to the Health Ministry. There are 2,598 people hospitalised with Covid, 151 fewer than the day before.

Just over 200 people are currently in intensive care units because of the disease, which has claimed 16,168 lives in Austria so far.

Only 68.89 percent of the country has a valid vaccine certificate, with numbers falling as people fail to go for their booster shots before the expiration of the primary immunisation.

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‘Arrive early’: Passengers at European airports warned of travel disruption

Europe's airports chief told passengers to leave time for delays this summer as the air travel industry struggles to meet surging demand after the pandemic.

'Arrive early': Passengers at European airports warned of travel disruption

“The clear conjunction of a much quicker recovery with a very tight labour market is creating a lot of problems,” Olivier Jankovec, head of the Europe branch of the Airports Council International (ACI), told AFP.

He said there were issues from airports to airlines, ground handlers, police and border controls, but insisted: “The system still works”.

READ ALSO: Budget airline passengers in Europe face travel headaches as more strikes called

“It’s important for passengers that they communicate with the airlines in terms of when they should get to the airport, and prepare to come earlier than usual to make sure to have the time to go through, especially if they have to check luggage,” he said.

Strikes by low-cost pilots and cabin crew across Europe – including this weekend – are adding to the disruption.

Speaking at the ACI Europe annual congress in Rome, Jankovec said airports had taken measures to improve the situation, which would come into effect from mid-July.

“Additional staff will be coming in July, the reconfiguration of some of the facilities and infrastructure to facilitate the flows will also come into effect in July,” he said.

“I think it will be tight, there will be some disruptions, there will be longer waiting times.

READ ALSO: Airport chaos in Europe: What are your rights if flights are delayed or cancelled?

“But I think that in the vast majority of airports, the traffic will go, people will not miss their planes, and hopefully everybody will be able to reach their destination as planned.”

He also defended increases in airport charges, after criticism from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents airlines.

Airports face “the same difficulties and inflationary pressures” as airlines, which he noted were putting their fares up, he said.

“Staff and energy is 45 percent of our operating costs, and of course inflation is also driving up the cost of materials,” he said.