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HEALTH

‘Entry tests’: What is Austria’s testing plan to allow bars and restaurants to open?

Austria is considering a scheme similar to that used for hairdressers, where visiting outdoor bars and restaurants can be possible with a negative coronavirus test. How would this look in practice?

'Entry tests': What is Austria’s testing plan to allow bars and restaurants to open?
Could beer gardens look a little less lonely in Austria soon? Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP

At a meeting on Friday, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said the country was considering allowing people with evidence of a negative coronavirus test to visit bars and restaurants again from March. 

The scheme, similar to that used for hairdressers and tattoo parlours in Austria, would allow bars and restaurants to open again. 

Kurz said the gradual reopening – including of bars and restaurants – would see Austria “relying heavily on the testing system in order to make more freedom possible”.

READ MORE: Will testing allow bars and restaurants to open again in Austria from March? 

The Chancellor said the hospitality industry now had until March 1st to present a plan for how such a scheme should operate. 

A decision will be made on March 1st, from which bars and restaurants could again be allowed to open. 

What would this ‘entry testing’ plan look like? 

While it is a novel idea as a way to allow a gradual return to normal, Austrians do not need to look very far to see how such a plan might work. 

Austrians have been allowed to visit hairdressers and other ‘body hugging services’ like tattoo parlours and cosmetic services since February 8th. 

In order to do so, they need to bring a negative coronavirus test which is less than 48 hours old. 

EXPLAINED: What is Austria's compulsory testing requirement for visiting hairdressers? 

Like this scheme, Austrians wanting to visit bars or restaurants would need to provide evidence of a negative coronavirus test to enter. 

Haven’t I heard of this before? 

In January, Austrian state governors’ floated a plan to set up a system whereby evidence of a negative test will be shown on a person’s phone in order to enter bars, restaurants, events and performances. 

When gaining entry to an event such as a concert, theatre performance or a sports match, attendees would show evidence of a negative test – along with their admission ticket. 

READ MORE: Austria to extend coronavirus lockdown 

Under the proposed plan, anyone entering a bar or restaurant would need to provide evidence of their negative test – whether that be on their phone or through a testing certificate. 

How likely is it to pass? 

When the announcement was made on Friday, February 19th, Kurz appeared optimistic that such a plan could be successful. 

It appears to be a departure from the previous plan, which was opposed by many in the hospitality sector. 

At the press conference, Kurz said “the tide has turned” regarding opposition to the plan. 

“I understand every landlord or hotelier would rather unlock the door today than tomorrow,” Kurz said, pointing out that bars and restaurants “are an important part of our Austrian identity in everyday life”. 

The stumbling block last time was who would have the responsibility of checking that bars and restaurants were complying with the scheme. 

At the time, Der Standard reported that “the question of who would be responsible for checking the tests in bars emerged as the central problem” in the scheme. 

This could remain a problem, particularly at bars and restaurants where the responsibility of checking each person’s valid negative test may create an undue burden on already resource-strapped entities. 

However, with such a system working relatively well in hairdressers, bars and restaurants appear to have become more enthusiastic about the idea. 

The Austrian government will meet with industry representatives and make a decision on March 1st. 

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HEALTH

Essential guide for travelling with allergies in Austria

Whether you have an allergy or travel with someone who does, dealing with unfamiliar foods and not knowing what you can eat can be a stressful experience. Hopefully this guide will help you get by in Austria.

Essential guide for travelling with allergies in Austria

EU allergy laws

As part of the European Union, Austria is covered by EU laws on the 14 most dangerous food allergens. “When you eat out in restaurants, cafés, hotels, or similar places, they are legally obliged to be able to explain what the food contains”, Liselott Florén, head of communications at Sweden’s Asthma and Allergy Association, told The Local Sweden when explaining the bloc’s rules.

When buying prepackaged food, you’ll usually see any ingredients containing one of these allergens highlighted in bold or capital letters. Here’s a list of the 14 most common food allergens with their Austrian translations and the abbreviation used:

  • A: Cereals containing gluten – Glutenhaltiges Getreide und daraus gewonnene Erzeugnisse
  • B: Crustaceans – Krebstiere und daraus gewonnene Erzeugnisse
  • C: Eggs – Eier von Geflügel und daraus gewonnene Erzeugnisse
  • D: Fish – Fisch und daraus gewonnene Erzeugnisse (außer Fischgelatine)
  • E: Peanuts – Erdnüsse und daraus gewonnene Erzeugnisse
  • F: Soy beans – Sojabohnen und daraus gewonnene Erzeugnisse
  • G: Milk – Milch von Säugetieren und Milcherzeugnisse (inkl. Laktose)
  • H: Nuts/tree nuts – Schalenfrüchte und daraus gewonnene Erzeugnisse
  • L: Celery – Sellerie und daraus gewonnene Erzeugnisse
  • M: Mustard – Senf und daraus gewonnene Erzeugnisse
  • N: Sesame – Sesamsamen und daraus gewonnene Erzeugnisse
  • O: Sulphur dioxide and sulphites – Schwefeldioxid und Sulfite
  • P: Lupin – Lupinen und daraus gewonnene Erzeugnisse
  • R: Mollusca – Weichtiere wie Schnecken, Muscheln, Tintenfische und daraus gewonnene Erzeugnisse

Depending on your allergy, it can be a good idea to learn the German words for common food items that may contain your allergen, like Käse, Rahm or Molkenpulver (cheese, cream or whey powder) for milk allergies, although these will often be followed by the name of the allergen in question, too. 

Some more important phrases are kann enthalten (may contain), kann Spuren von XXX enthalten (may contain traces of) and ohne (without). People with egg or milk allergies can also look for vegan foods, usually marked with English words like vegan (or the german veganes) or plant based. Not to be confused with vegetarisch, which means vegetarian.

Be aware of common Austrian foods which may contain allergens. Some foods described as a salad (sallad) often contain mayonnaise, and eggs, milk and mustard are all popular ingredients. 

Sauces and gravies often contain cream, butter or milk, so make sure to check these, and there are a number of cakes which contain almond (mandel)..

Always have a dialogue with staff in restaurants

Knowing the EU allergens can be useful for reading menus and ingredient lists in the supermarket, but people with allergies should not rely on written information alone when ordering in restaurants.

Since menus often change with the seasons, you might not be getting the most up-to-date information.

In most restaurants, you’ll see the words ‘Allergie? Sprechen Sie mit dem Personal!’ (Allergy? Talk to staff!) or similar displayed somewhere, and staff should be happy to help you.

Decide whether to make or buy an allergy card

Austrians are good English speakers,, but for people with allergies it’s important that you’re completely confident that the person you’re talking to has understood what you’re trying to tell them.

It can be a good idea to write up some sort of message or card with information of your allergies included in German which you can show to staff (you can also buy one of these online with information in multiple languages).

Even so, make sure that the staff understands the information you are telling them. 

It can also be a good idea to let the restaurant know about your allergies in advance, if possible, whether that’s by phone or online.

If you do choose to create a card or written message to show to staff, here are some useful phrases in German which you can include:

Ich habe eine schwere/lebensbedrohliche Nahrungsmittelallergie – I have a serious/life-threatening food allergy.

Ich bin allergisch auf… – I am allergic to…

What to do if you have a reaction

You always have the right to acute healthcare in Austria, no matter where you come from. This includes treatment for serious allergic reactions. The emergency number in Austria is 144.

Depending on where you come from, the price of this healthcare varies. Residents of Nordic and EU/EEA countries won’t likely have to pay for treatment if they can show their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). It’s a good idea to always carry this with you while you’re in Austria. 

As a general rule, non-EU residents will need to pay the full price of any treatment themselves (which is why it’s a good idea to get travel insurance before your trip).

UK residents can no longer get an EHIC card, unless they have rights under the Withdrawal Agreement, but they can show a GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card) instead to access healthcare at the same costs as Austrian residents.

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