Vienna to drop vaccination and recovery requirements from Saturday

The capital has been alone in Austria in its 2G requirements for almost two months, but has decided to ease restrictions as numbers dropped.

Vienna to drop vaccination and recovery requirements from Saturday
People with FFP2 protective face masks wait in front of a shop in the well-known shopping street Mariahilferstrasse in Vienna on February 8, 2021. Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)

Austria’s capital Vienna is removing its main Covid restriction from Saturday, April 16th, meaning people will no longer need to present proof that they are vaccinated or recovered from the disease (2G rule) to enter bars and restaurants.

“We have decided to go along with the federal steps in a broad sense”, city councillor for Health Peter Hacker said in a press conference on Thursday afternoon. 

The 2G rules are being dropped in all areas, including gastronomy, sports, and hospitals, the secretary said. The state capital is also following federal reopening steps and dropping the FFP2 mask requirement for non-essential retail, including shops and gyms.

FFP2 masks are still mandatory in “essential” indoor public areas, including supermarkets and public transport, Hacker said.

READ ALSO: Austria to keep masks only in ‘essential places’ from April 17th

The move goes in line with the federal government’s announcement. “Nobody wants to wear a mask during summer, but these small requirements are basic measures”, Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) had said during a press conference earlier this Thursday.

The reopening measures could be announced as there has been a decline in the infection rates for ten days, Hacker said. However, the decisive factor for Vienna has always been the situation in hospitals, and “the number of new patient admissions is now declining”, the counsellor stated.

One significant difference from the federal rules remains the negative PCR test requirement for visitors in hospitals and care facilities. In the rest of the country, following 3G rules is enough, meaning that vaccinated or recovered people do not need to be tested. The staff will do PCR tests twice a week in Vienna.

The capital has also announced the rules for schools after the Easter holidays.

READ ALSO: Tourists: What to do if you test positive for Covid in Austria

Masks (surgical masks are allowed) are mandatory outside the class until the eighth grade. From the ninth grade, there is a FFP2 mask requirement. The teaching staff must wear an FFP2 mask outside the class, within the class this also applies to teachers who have neither been vaccinated nor recovered.

Preparations for the cold season

The Vienna representative reiterated that the city will be prepared for autumn when infections could rise again.

“You have to assume that there will be a new load in the fall”, he said.

“Unfortunately, the vaccination disappeared from Austrians’ thoughts as the compulsory vaccination failed”, Hacker added. The councillor stated that a fourth vaccine could be necessary by then – at least for risk patients and those over 65 years of age.

The Viennese ordinance will come into force next Saturday and will be valid until the beginning of the summer holidays, Hacker announced.

Mayor Michael Ludwig was not in attendance during the press conference. He tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this week and is now self-isolating at home with mild symptoms. 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Austria announces it will scrap mandatory Covid-19 vaccination law

Austria's federal government on Thursday announced it would scrap its controversial mandatory Covid-19 vaccination law.

Austria announces it will scrap mandatory Covid-19 vaccination law

Austria will cancel its mandatory Covid-19 vaccination law, the federal government announced during a press conference on Thursday.

The controversial law had been suspended until August after coronavirus infection rates slowed. However, it hadn’t been abolished.

The government could still bring back a set of regulations allowing police to check people’s vaccinated status. Those that could not prove they were either vaccinated, or recently recovered from the disease, would have to pay a fine.

“The omicron variant changed the situation”, health minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) said.

READ ALSO: 11,000 new cases: Will Austria reintroduce restrictions as infection numbers rise?

He added that the law was introduced in a different context and was supported by “a clear majority” at the time when hospitals were full and “intensive care units were on the limit”.

The minister said that the new variant has reduced the effectiveness of vaccination against infections and has caused less severe courses of the disease.

“Even people who are willing to vaccinate in principle are now more difficult to convince of the need for a third dose”.

Rauch said the obligation to vaccinate did not increase the take up of the Covid jab. Instead, it “opened deep trenches in Austrian society”, according to the minister.

The controversial law provoked numerous street protests throughout Austria after it was announced.

The minister said that the obligation itself even made some give up on their intent to get the jab.

Living with Covid

The new variants bring a new scenario to Austria and people will need to learn to coexist with the virus, according to the health minister.

“Living with Covid means that we will bring forward a comprehensive package of measures, and today that means the abolition of compulsory vaccination,” Rauch said.

READ ALSO: Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

The minister reiterated that vaccination is essential, especially as it helps prevent hospitalisations and more severe disease courses. He added that there should be an extensive vaccination campaign before Autumn and an expected winter Covid-19 wave.

Currently, about 62 percent of the Austrian population has a valid vaccination certificate. However, the number has decreased as people fail to schedule booster, or a third-dose, appointments.

The ins and outs of the vaccine mandate

The law was first introduced in February, even though the technical requirements for it to be enacted were not in place. The first stage was purely “informational”, and Austrian residents received letters explaining vaccines and the regulation.

A second stage, when people could have been fined if not vaccinated, was set to start in mid-March. Before a single person was fined, though, Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) suspended the law with an ordinance.