What will Christmas look like in Austria this year?

From a ban on Christmas markets to restrictions on shopping, Christmas in Austria in 2020 won’t look or feel the same.

What will Christmas look like in Austria this year?

On Wednesday, December 2nd, Austrian authorities announced a relaxation of the country’s tough lockdown from Monday, December 7th. 

While some stores will now be allowed to open for Christmas trade, a fresh ban on takeaway alcohol sales – in addition to the ban on Christmas markets – means anyone wanting a Glühwein will have to make one at home. 

Here’s how Christmas will look in Austria in 2020. 

NEW: Austria to ease lockdown restrictions from Monday

No Christmas markets

Despite an outside hope that Christmas markets would be allowed in some restricted form this year – including an announcement from the Vienna Chamber of Commerce in October that the markets would go ahead subject to strict hygiene and distance rules – the government dealt a death knell for the markets on December 2nd. 

Due to the announcement, hospitality venues are set to close until January 7th at the earliest. Opening may be allowed if infection rates continue to fall. 

Christmas markets were expressly forbidden as part of the announcement, Kronen Zeitung reports

There was also bad news for anyone who wants a Glühwein or two to beat back the cold. 

From December 7th, a strict ban on takeaway alcohol was also set in stone. This means that only alcohol in sealed containers for consumption at home may be sold. 

This move meant that unlike in neighbouring Germany – where some vendors have found a way to stage mini Christmas markets or those with drive through sales – there will be no Christmas markets in any shape or form this year.

Christmas shopping

Shops will be allowed to open again from Monday – albeit subject to major restrictions. 

Only one customer will be allowed per ten square metres. 

Mask and nose protection must also be worn. 

Christmas gatherings

Austria’s all-day lockdown has been wound back. Restrictions on leaving homes will now only apply from 8pm to 6am from Monday, December 7th. 

While you may now leave the house during the day regardless of the reason, leaving the house at night can only be for four reasons: work, exercise, to care for others or for the ‘necessary and basic needs of life’, i.e. to avoid emergencies, etc.

During the day, you may meet with a maximum of six adults and six children from a max of two households. 

These rules will however be wound back from the period of December 24th to 26th – and on December 31st. 

On those days, you may meet with up to ten people from any number of households. Children do not count towards the tally. 

It is important to remember that hotels will be closed over the Christmas period. 

What about quarantine? 

One final aspect to consider is the Christmas quarantine requirement, which was also announced on December 2nd. 

Under the new rules, anyone returning from a high-risk area will be required to quarantine for ten days. 

After five days in quarantine, people will be entitled to have a free coronavirus test in order to leave quarantine early. 

‘High risk’ countries will be any country which has a 14-day incidence rate of more than 100 positive cases of coronavirus per 100,000 residents. 


One bright light in the announcement is that skiing will again be possible from Christmas Eve. Hotels are set to be closed until January 7th, meaning that only day trips are possible. 

In the press conference on Wednesday, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said ski lifts would again be allowed to open from December 24th. 

“From December 24th, individual sports outdoors such as skiing will be possible again so that the Austrian population has the chance to engage in sporting activity over the holidays,” Kurz said at a press conference announcing re-opening measures after the country's second coronavirus lockdown ends at the end of this week.


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What are Austria’s new Covid and RSV vaccine recommendations?

From fresh recommendations for Covid-19 jabs to a new vaccination for the RSV respiratory virus, here's what you need to know about vaccination guidelines in Austria for the autumn and winter months.

What are Austria's new Covid and RSV vaccine recommendations?

Cases of Covid-19 have been rising in recent weeks with the discovery of a new variant, and the World Health Organisation has recommended that governments make efforts to ensure their populations are up to date with vaccines.

Now the Austrian government has issued new vaccination guidelines.These concern protection against illnesses including Covid-19 and a brand new vaccination for Respiratory syncytial virus, which affects the lungs and breathing passages, commonly known as RSV. 

“In the past few weeks, the National Vaccination Committee has been intensively preparing to update the vaccination plan,” said the Austrian Health Ministry.

“New scientific findings were discussed as well as the recommendations of the European health authorities. This includes not only new recommendations for the corona vaccination, but also for vaccinations against RSV, meningococci and hepatitis A.”

READER QUESTION: Where can I get tested for Covid-19 in Austria?

The plans are still to be published in full, but here’s what we know so far.

What’s new when it comes to Covid vaccinations?

Austria’s National Vaccination Committee (NIG) has adapted its Covid-19 advice for residents living in Austria. 

The NIG says that unvaccinated people will be protected with one jab against Covid-19, with the most up-to-date vaccines. Previously up to three doses were recommended for basic immunisation. 

Meanwhile, the committee said that one top-up jab, particularly for older people and at-risk groups, was sufficient for protection this autumn and winter.

Pfizer and Moderna have both developed new vaccines which target the most recent strains of the Covid virus, known as XBB.1.5, and the European Medicines Agency approved these for use within the EU on August 30th.

The adapted vaccine is expected to be released in Austria this week. 

Why is only one injection needed when more were recommended previously?

Experts say that the population has built up strong immunity against coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020.

“The immunity of the population enables a new vaccination recommendation,” said the Austrian Health Ministry. 

“For the best possible protection against a severe course of the disease from Covid-19, one vaccination in the coming autumn is sufficient – regardless of whether basic immunisation has already been carried out,” said the Health Ministry.

“In line with the recommendations of the European health authorities, it can be assumed that previously unvaccinated people will also be adequately protected by a single vaccination with the new variant vaccines.”

A Covid-19 vaccination and test center in Austria.

A Covid-19 vaccination and test centre in Austria during the pandemic. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Health Minister Johannes Rauch added: “Even if we have largely left the corona pandemic behind us, the virus is still there.

“After three years of the pandemic, however, the framework conditions have changed significantly: immunity is significantly higher, vaccines and Covid-19 drugs are available to us. It is still the case that vaccination is the best protection. From serious illnesses and from Long Covid.”

Experts urged people to speak to their GPs to get advice.

Katharina Reich, Austria’s Director General for Public Health, said: “With the existing immunity within the population, one vaccination will in future be sufficient for effective protection against serious illnesses.

“I recommend everyone to get information from their doctor in good time.”

Who should get a top-up Covid vaccination?

Austria’s National Vaccination Committee recommends that everyone over the age of 12 receive a jab in autumn with the updated vaccines. 

Vaccination is particularly recommended for people over the age of 60, people who are at increased risk of developing severe illness with Covid and health workers.

Babies can also get the vaccination after a consultation with a doctor. 

Vaccines in Austria are available from many doctors as well as public vaccination points. 

Vaccine against RSV available for the first time

This year, for the first time, the European Commission has approved two vaccines for RSV for adults.

Austria’s National Vaccination Panel recommends vaccinations against RSV for adults aged 60 and older.

To date, there has been no jab to protect against lower respiratory tract infections caused by RSV. The vaccines are expected in Austria in the coming weeks.

“Last autumn we clearly saw that not only corona, but also RSV and influenza cause many serious diseases that can overload Austrian hospitals,” said Health Minister Rauch. “I am therefore particularly pleased that we will have vaccines available for all three serious respiratory diseases for the first time this fall.”

When it comes to Influenza (flu), people in Austria can get a top-up jab every autumn/winter, with many adults paying a fee for it. Arrange a consultation with your doctor to see if any vaccinations are recommended to you. 

The National Vaccination Committee has also updated the previous recommendations for vaccinations against meningococci and hepatitis A.

Vaccination against hepatitis A is no longer generally recommended, instead it is only recommend only under certain conditions, such as for travel.

Meanwhile, in future vaccination against meningococci ACWY will also be recommended from the age of one, replacing the vaccination against meningococci C.