As is often the case in Austria, the latest round of Covid-19 rules are not the same in all parts of the country, with some noticeable differences in Lower Austria and Vienna.
Quarantine rules – Austria-wide
Since Monday August 1st, mandatory self-isolation for people infected with Covid-19 is no longer a requirement in Austria (with the exception of Linz – see below).
However, if you have tested positive for Covid-19 and leave your house, you must wear an FFP2 mask unless you are outdoors and there are no other people within two meters of you.
These so-called Verkehrsbeschränkung or “traffic restrictions” apply to all people who have tested positive, whether that is with an antigen test or a PCR test. But if you test positive with an antigen test and the subsequent PCR test is negative, the restrictions are lifted.
As before, if you test positive with both an antigen and a PCR test, the restrictions last for five days. After this time there is the option of doing a PCR test where the so-called ‘CT results’ can be analysed.
The CT value is technical information shown in lab reports in Austria for positive results. When the value is higher than 30, people have been allowed to leave their homes despite a positive test, as it means they have a low viral load. With the changes, they will no longer have to stick to any restrictions if their test is negative, or shows this value as higher than 30.
The maximum duration for the ‘traffic restriction’ is 10 days.
This means as long as you wear a mask at all times, it is possible to meet up with friends, visit a museum, or go to work while testing positive.
There are some exceptions though — people with Covid-19 cannot visit retirement and nursing homes, hospitals, facilities for disabled and elderly people, Kindergartens, primary schools or other care facilities for children under 11.
Additionally, people belonging to high risk groups are still entitled to work from home if their health could be endangered by catching Covid-19.
Quarantine rules – Linz
The capital city of Lower Austria has decided to go its own way and is not following the federal mandate on self-isolation rules.
At the Linz Magistrat (which has 3,000 employees), staff with Covid-19 must continue to stay at home, even they are symptom-free. Those without symptoms can work from home, but if it is not possible for someone to work from home, they will take sick leave instead.
The ruling extends to staff at municipal childcare facilities and retirement homes. Employees will be able to return to the workplace in line with the traffic restrictions detailed above (when they have a negative test result).
Another noticeable change from August 1st is that people with Covid-19 will be able to obtain a sick note from a doctor by telephone again if they cannot work due to symptoms.
In the earlier stages of the pandemic, sick leave was also possible for all other illnesses by telephone.
However, there is confusion surrounding the new rules with differing interpretations of the guidelines being offered by the Ministry of Health and the Austrian Medical Association (ÖÄK).
On Monday, it was announced by the Ministry of Health that people will have to actively ask a doctor for a sick note if they have Covid-19 due to changes to the quarantine rules. Previously, if someone tested positive, they received a notice of quarantine, which automatically put them on sick leave and self-isolation.
But Edgar Wutscher, Vice President of the ÖGK, contradicted the ministry and said: “From our point of view, it is possible to call in sick for all illnesses.
“In some federal states, such as Vienna, the telemedical rules in the overall contract never ended the telephone sick note. And in the other federal states as well, the determination of incapacity and ability to work is basically the responsibility of the doctor.”
Meanwhile, when asked by APA on Monday, the Ministry of Health and the health insurance fund ÖGK repeated that only Covid-19 patients can get a sick note by phone.
The Local will bring further updates when this has been clarified by the relevant Austrian authorities.
FFP2 masks must still be worn in hospitals, healthcare facilities (such as Hausarzt) and residential care homes – everywhere in Austria.
Additionally, FFP2 masks are still required in pharmacies and on public transport in Vienna (including at stations).
The Austrian government has not ruled out re-introducing the mask mandate in essential stores and public spaces in the event of an increase in Covid-19 cases in the autumn and winter season.
In Vienna, visitors to hospitals must present a negative PCR test no older than 48 hours, and only three visitors are allowed per patient per day.
Elsewhere, the national rules are visitors must present either a negative PCR (no older than 72 hours) or antigen test (no older than 24 hours) to enter a hospital.