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COVID-19 ALERT

Austria to remove quarantine for positive Covid-19 cases

People who test positive for Covid-19 will no longer be required to self-isolate in Austria. Here is what you need to know.

Austria to remove quarantine for positive Covid-19 cases
No more isolation requirement for infected people in Austria - as long as they wear FFP2 masks. Photo: Alex Halada/AFP

Austria will remove the mandatory self-isolation requirement for people who test positive for Covid-19 from August 1st, Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) said in a press conference on Tuesday.

People who do not feel sick will be allowed to leave their homes even after a positive Covid-19 test but will have to follow specific requirements, the Austrian federal government said.

“We believe we have a good balance now”, Rauch said.

The so-called “traffic restrictions” mean that those who don’t feel sick will be allowed to leave their homes but must wear an FFP2 mask indoors and outdoors whenever social distancing is not possible.

The health minister said that people who feel sick should call their doctors and ask for a sick leave.

Additionally, there are entry bans in hospitals, nursing and elderly care homes, childcare facilities, elementary schools and daycare centres.

READ ALSO: What are the fines for not wearing masks on Vienna’s public transport?

However, employees of these areas will be allowed to go to work – with the mask mandate – even if they are infected. The only exceptions are professions that are made impossible to do with a mask on, such as speech therapists and musicians.

The restrictions are valid for a maximum of 10 days and as soon as there is a positive antigen test. But a negative PCR test (or PCR test with a CT value over 30 as shown in the laboratory results) allows people to leave the “traffic restrictions” after the fifth day.

In the case of restaurants and bars, people are allowed to go inside, sit and chat but must wear a mask at all times – meaning they cannot consume food and beverages.

BACKGROUND: Will Austria drop quarantine and isolation for positive Covid-19 cases?

“We cannot live this degree of pandemic-related crisis mood for years”, health minister Johannes Rauch said. However, he added that if the situation appears to be getting worse again, the government will impose stricter measures.

He reiterated that the pandemic situation has reached a new stage. “We have the vaccine, we have medication, people are getting milder courses of the disease than before”, Rauch stated.

Protection for risk groups

Labour minister Martin Kocher (ÖVP) said risk groups should be protected, and a specific ordinance is being prepared for workplaces where there are people at risk. 

Kocher said that companies will be able to work out measures such as work-from-home schemes for people at risk. Additionally, workers that belong to vulnerable groups could be exempted from work by presenting a “risk certificate”.

Experts sceptical

SPÖ health spokesperson Philip Kucher said that the government had abandoned the pandemic management, calling a lifting of isolation requirements “irresponsible and dangerous” and demanding a proper pandemic response plan for the autumn.

“A quarantine end for infected people would be dangerous and could bring the health care system back to its limits. An irresponsible and dangerous game”, he wrote in a statement.

READ ALSO: ‘At the limit: Huge spike in Covid hospitalisations and deaths in Austria

Austria’s federal government can set up the minimum requirements for the country, but individual states could impose stricter rules.

Vienna’s Mayor Michael Ludwig said he thought the relaxation was a “step in the wrong direction”, but if quarantine is abolished at a national level, the Austrian capital will not go a different way and keep quarantine, as it would be too difficult to implement with the city receiving 300,000 commuters every day.

Surprisingly the wife of Austria’s Health Minister Johannes Rauch has also criticised the plan to relax quarantine.

Gabi Sprickler-Falschlunger, the Vorarlberg SPÖ state party leader, says it is undoubtedly the “wrong decision” and predicts a sharp rise in Covid-19 infections.

Covid-19 numbers

On Tuesday, Austria recorded 9,213 new coronavirus cases after 125,571 PCR tests, according to the Health Ministry.

There were 1,604 people in hospitals with Covid-19, 56 more than the day before, and 93 in intensive care units (five more than the previous day).

Currently, just 60.2 percent of the population has valid immunological protection – meaning a combination of vaccines and/or recovered status accepted by the federal government.

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COVID-19 RULES

Austrian court rules certain bans for unvaccinated were ‘unconstitutional’

Austria's constitutional court found that banning unvaccinated people from going to hairdressers or cultural institutions was unconstitutional

Austrian court rules certain bans for unvaccinated were 'unconstitutional'

The Constitutional Court (VfGH) has found a regulation which stopped people from going to hairdressers in the second lockdown for the unvaccinated was unconstitutional and, therefore, illegal.

However, the Court of Justice did confirm it was admissible to distinguish between people with and without 2G evidence (proof they had recovered from or been vaccinated against Covid-19), meaning the lockdown for the unvaccinated was itself legal.

READ ALSO: Four options: These are Austria’s autumn Covid lockdown plans

As there were exceptions to the lockdown, allowing people without vaccinations to leave their homes to “cover the necessary basic needs of daily life”, this should have included trips to the hairdressers as part of these “basic needs” on a long term, the court ruled.

It clarified that the rules were at first supposed to last for 10 days, but as the lockdown got extended several times, lasting a total of 11 weeks, the “basic needs” evolved and should have included hairdresser visits.

According to the Constitutional Court, it was also illegal for the government to ban unvaccinated people from entering cultural institutions in autumn 2021.

In this case, the reason was that people were still allowed to go to church and other places of religion, which the court found was “in violation of equality”.

READ ALSO: LATEST: The Covid rules across Austria from August 2022

The court found the ban on entering sports facilities ordered by the Minister of Health during the first lockdown in March and April 2020 was also unlawful, as there was not sufficient justification, broadcaster ORF reported.

Strict Covid-19 measures

Austria was one of the countries which imposed several lockdown periods during the pandemic, as The Local reported. While some were aimed at the entire population, more recently, only those who didn’t get vaccinated against Covid-19 were prevented from going out of their homes without a justification (such as grocery shopping or emergencies).

The country had also imposed a Covid-19 vaccination mandate, but that was scrapped after new variants of the virus evolved into less severe cases of the disease, the government said.

Currently, there are few coronavirus restrictions in place. You can check out all the measures across Austria here.

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