REVEALED: The Covid-19 measures for the start of the Austrian school year

Austria's Education Ministry has announced the coronavirus recommendations for the new school year. Here's what you need to know.

REVEALED: The Covid-19 measures for the start of the Austrian school year
School to start without mandatory tests or masks. Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Children and young students in Austria have been arguably one of the most affected groups during the Covid-19 pandemic, having been forced to study at home, wear masks in class and take mandatory PCR tests.

With the school year starting in the country in September (September 5th in eastern Austria and September 12th in the rest of the country), the federal government has announced which measures will be in place.

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

As Covid-19 cases – as well as hospitalisation numbers –  are fairly low, almost no measures are mandatory.

‘Learning to live with corona’

The Education Ministry said the motto is “learning to live with corona”, with a goal to ensure continuous classroom teaching with targeted safety and prevention measures “depending on the risk situation”.

“Restrictions should therefore be reduced to an absolutely necessary minimum and be in line with the regulations in other areas of life,” the ministry said.

Currently, this means that schools will start without mandatory tests or an FFP2 mask mandate. However, regular tests are recommended during the first week of school.

READ ALSO: Vienna extends stricter Covid-19 rules until late October

“If possible, students should come to school on the first day tested, preferably by PCR test,” wrote Education Minister Martin Polaschek (ÖVP). In addition, antigen tests will take place in schools on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in the first week of school – also on a voluntary basis.

For the second week of school, all students can receive three antigen tests for use at home so that they can test themselves, for example, Sunday evening or Monday morning.

Antigen tests are available at the school locations for short-term tests at schools in the 2022/23 school year.

‘No school closures’

In a special ‘risk’ situation, such as when there is a confirmed Covid-19 case in class, the school could adopt measures such as ordering tests and a mask mandate.

However, distance learning can only be ordered with the permission of the Directorate of Education. “The schools must remain open – there will be no more nationwide school closure,” Education Minister Martin Polaschek said. 

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

The Education Minister maintained that asymptomatic teachers from the secondary level are allowed to come to class despite infection as long as they wear an FFP2 mask. However, schools must provide them with their own break room, and special hygiene measures must also be observed in these rooms.

The same applies to students, who are allowed to go to school despite a positive Covid test as long as they wear a mask. However, anyone who feels sick should stay at home. “This applies to all diseases,” the minister added.

Useful vocabulary

(die) Masken – masks

(der )Schulstart – school start

(die) Schulschließungen – school closures

(der) Bildungsminister – Education Minister

(der) Gesundheitsminister – Health Minister

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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Austria recommends 4th Covid vaccine dose for everyone over 12

Austria's autumn Covid-19 plan includes a fourth Covid-19 dose to all those older than 12 and the Health Ministry doesn't rule out further measures, especially a return of the mask mandate.

Austria recommends 4th Covid vaccine dose for everyone over 12

Austria’s Health Ministry and the country’s National Immunisation Panel (NIG) have recommended a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine to the general population ahead of autumn.

Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) and physician Herwig Kollaritsch of the Immunisation Panel have requested people take the vaccination before the cold months, reiterating that the Covid-19 vaccine is safe and protects against more severe courses of the disease.

“You can do a lot before autumn. Don’t wait until the numbers rise. Get vaccinated, take the booster shots”, Kollaritsch said in a press conference this Wednesday, August 31st.

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

The previous recommendation was only for people older than 60 or those in risk groups. “After there was already the booster recommendation for the vulnerable and over 60-year-olds over the summer, all other groups are to get a booster in the coming weeks,” the health minister said.

Only 58.9 percent of the population is currently sufficiently vaccinated, as per the recommendation of the National Immunisation Panel (NIG) – which for the majority of the population is three doses – or if they’ve had Covid then two doses and a recent recovered status.

New measures ahead of autumn

The health minister stopped short of announcing new Covid-19 measures for autumn.

When he announced the end of the mask mandate in the country back in May, Rauch had said the suspension would be “temporary” and masks were likely to return after summer, depending on the pandemic, particularly on hospitalisation numbers.

Currently, masks are obligatory in the health sector and on public transport in Vienna.

“We evaluate the situation weekly by talking with the hospital heads in the states. We have a very good view of the Covid-19 data, and we don’t rule out bringing measures back in the future”, he said.

READ ALSO: Vienna extends stricter Covid-19 rules until late October

He added: “It is likely that in the autumn, compulsory masks will again be useful and necessary in certain areas such as public transport or supermarkets,”.

For now, though, the minister said he recommends people to get vaccinated, wear masks where social distancing is not possible, and get tested regularly – even if those measures are not mandatory.

When should you get vaccinated?

The fourth vaccination should come a minimum of four months after the third one (or after a Covid-19 infection) but not after six months of the third dose (regardless of whether or not the person has had an infection after the last vaccine), according to the NIG.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Which Austrian states will allow Covid-infected teachers in classrooms?

For children between five and eleven years of age, the basic immunisation – which consists of three vaccinations – should be completed by the start of school at the latest; no booster vaccination is currently recommended in this age group.

Austria expects vaccines adapted to the omicron variant to arrive in the country before the end of September, the health minister said.