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

As Austria removed quarantine requirements for people who tested positive for Covid-19, many fear numbers will rise and lead to a new lockdown. So what are the government's plans?

positive covid test
People who test positive for Covid-19 will no longer have to avoid the workplace - with an exception in Linz. Photo: DAMIEN MEYER / AFP

Austria will remove the mandatory self-isolation requirement for people who test positive for Covid-19 from August 1st, as The Local reported 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.

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.

READ ALSO: Austria to remove quarantine for positive Covid-19 cases

Many experts are sceptical of the plans, though, calling them “irresponsible and dangerous” and warning that such a move could bring the health care system back to its limits.

What are the contingency plans for autumn?

One of the biggest fears is what will happen in the autumn and winter months when the cold brings people to enclosed areas and facilitates the spread of airborne viruses such as the coronavirus.

The federal government is reportedly working on a contingency plan, according to the newspaper Heute, which claims to have seen drafts of the plans.

It envisages four scenarios – numbered from the best to the worst case. In the best case scenario, Austrians can live free of any pandemic rules. In the second best, the situation will remain as it is currently.

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

In scenario three, if new variants lead to more severe illness, the mask requirement will be expanded and more testing will be carried out.

There could be night-time exit restrictions, exit tests and restrictions on private meetings. In addition, major events could be stopped from taking place and nightclubs closed.

Scenario four, the worst case scenario, would mean vaccination no longer offered protection and hospitals became overwhelmed, leading to severe restrictions on people’s social lives.

READ ALSO: Schanigärten against Covid: Vienna to allow outdoor dining through winter

If all other protective measures fail, the last resort will be a new lockdown. “An early, short, but stringent lockdown – if not avoidable – is preferable”, the drafted plan states.

Covid-19 infections appear to be falling

While there is no sure prediction of what will happen in the next few months, currently, Covid-19 infections appear to be falling in Austria.

Austria’s Covid-19 traffic light system has classified Tyrol and Vorarlberg as a medium risk rather than high risk. Only Carinthia and Vienna saw an increase in infections. Styria has the lowest risk assessment, while Vienna has the highest.

READ ALSO: Will Austria bring back its mask mandate before autumn?

The situation in the hospitals is currently relatively stable, both in terms of normal and intensive care units.

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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.