The change to retail opening hours was the only significant change to the lockdown rules, apart from the shortening in the length of validity of vaccine certificates (from 360 to 270 days after the second dose) which had already been publicised and is effective from December 6th.
The reduced opening hours apply only to those businesses that are already allowed to be open under the current Covid-19 law, including supermarkets, pharmacies, but also pet food stores and newsagents for example. Previously these could stay open until 9pm.
“Although retail employees are the largest professional group in Austria, they are regularly forgotten by the Ministry of Health,” union chairperson Barbara Teiber said when first calling for early closure last week.
She argued that this was a necessary safety precaution for shop employees, particularly women, to feel safer returning home on emptier than usual dark winter streets.
“Female retail workers in particular do not want to go home in the dark through deserted alleys. In addition, shorter opening times ensure secure staff capacity. In this difficult situation, it is not possible for retail employees, who often have care responsibilities, to step in all the time,” Teiber said.
The earlier closure was also a rule during previous lockdowns, but was changed earlier this summer.