Austria to ditch all Covid-19 laws this year: health minister
Austria's health minister wants to bring the country back to "normal" and said on Saturday that all of Austria's Covid-19 laws and regulations would be abolished over the course of 2023.
This means that people would no longer need to report Covid-19 infections, Johannes Rauch said in an interview with Austrian daily Kronen Zeitung.
The Green Party minister also said that, in his opinion, the current huge wave of infections in China no longer posed a great risk.
"We have taken the necessary precautionary measures. I don't see any signs currently of a major threat," he said.
However, wastewater monitoring would remain in place. Austria examines the wastewater from all flights arriving from China for Covid-19 variants.
But Rauch does not think the virus is going away. Nonetheless, he believes Austria is well prepared: "We have vaccines, we have drugs, we are monitoring the variants," he said.
After three years of the pandemic, Austria has achieved a high level of immunisation in the population, he wrote on Twitter.
Covid-19 rules are not standardised across Austria and, outside of the capital, Covid-19 measures are no longer much in evidence.
But restrictions in stricter Vienna are set to loosen, too: the current requirement to wear a mask (Maskenpflicht) on public transport in the city will be abolished soon, Rauch said.
It was already dropped for the rest of the country last summer, although it is still compulsory to wear an FFP2 mask when visiting health and care facilities and, in Vienna, you also have to take a test before you go.
Although Vienna's state government Covid-19 policies have typically been stricter than the national government's, Rauch told broadcaster ORF that he was confident that Vienna would slot in to the national regulations and said he planned to have discussions on the topic over the coming days.
He said he expected that all nationwide regulations would be dropped within the first six months of 2023.
The testing strategy is also set to change: only those with symptoms will be able to get free Covid-19 tests after June 30th, the minister said.
"Anyone who is ill will be tested," he said.
Rauch also said he would draw lessons from the last few years and adapt the law on epidemics, which he told Kronen Zeitung was "not suitable for fighting a pandemic".