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.
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.
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.
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.