Austria to keep masks only in ‘essential places’ from April 16th

The "green pass" will be valid for 12 months for people who received a booster dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, Austria's Health Minister Johannes Rauch says.

Could the relaxation of Covid measures in Austria be behind the spike in infections? Photo: Christof STACHE / AFP
Austria "paused" its FFP2 mask mandate Photo: Christof STACHE / AFP

Austria has announced it will drop a general mask mandate on Saturday, April 16th, but keep it for essential indoor areas such as the health sector, supermarkets, and public transport.

“Nobody wants to wear a mask during summer, but these small requirements are basic measures”, Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) said during a press conference on Thursday, April 14th.

Currently, Austria has an FFP2 mask mandate in all indoor areas, including trade and cultural and leisure facilities. The obligation to wear a mask in these areas will fall from this Saturday.

In retirement homes and hospitals, the 3G rule remains in place, Rauch said. Visitors will need to show proof that they are either vaccinated, recently recovered from Covid-19 or have tested negative for the virus.

All rules apply until July 8th, at least.

The easing of restrictions is only possible as the country has seen fewer new cases of Covid-19, Rauch stated. However, Austria needs to be prepared for the autumn and winter months.

READ ALSO: Vienna: How tourists, visitors (and residents) can get free Covid tests

“The best preparation and protection is the vaccination. My recommendation to all who are not yet vaccinated or are only two times vaccinated is: go protect yourselves, vaccinate”, he said.

According to the minister, the government expects a booster campaign in late August or September – to offer protection ahead of the colder months.

The federal government’s measures are the minimal national requirements, but states can adopt tougher restrictions.

So far, only the state of Vienna has announced it might take a different path, and SPÖ Mayor Michael Ludwig has scheduled a press conference for later this Thursday.

Changes do the Green Pass

Austria’s Health Minister announced changes to the validity of the Green Pass. The country will follow European Union’s directives, and the booster shot should be valid for 12 months, he said.

The Pass will be valid for six months for double vaccinated or recovered people.

READ ALSO: Why are the numbers of fully-vaccinated people going down in Austria?

Rauch reiterated that the national immunisation board recommends the fourth vaccination only for risk groups, who should receive a fourth dose from four to six months after the third one.

There is no general recommendation for the second booster. However, people can still decide with their doctors whether they want to take it or not.

Vienna drops masks and 2G requirements

Austria’s capital Vienna is removing its main Covid restriction from Saturday, April 16th, meaning people will no longer need to present proof that they are vaccinated or recovered from the disease (2G rule) to enter bars and restaurants.

“We have decided to go along with the federal steps in a broad sense”, city councillor for Health Peter Hacker said in a press conference on Thursday afternoon.

As in the rest of the country, FFP2 masks are still mandatory in “essential” indoor public areas, including supermarkets and public transport, Hacker said. However, they are no longer required for sports, culture, and other indoor places.

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Austria to drop all Covid restrictions by the end of June

Austria's government announced the country would be back to "normal operation" in July, including in the capital Vienna. Here's what this means.

Austria to drop all Covid restrictions by the end of June

On Wednesday, February 1st, Austria’s federal government announced it would end all Covid-19 crisis measures by the end of June.

In a press conference, Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) explained that vaccinations, tests and medications would be integrated into the regular structures of the national health system. 

There will be no more free tests, except for people with symptoms and patients at risk, and those will be carried out only by family doctors or in hospitals. However, vaccination will remain free of charge and available at various points, including at family doctor’s offices. 

“The virus is here to stay, and we are preparing to live with it in the long term,” Rauch said. 

All current measures will be dropped in phases, including mask requirements, obligation to report illness, and special rules for doctors and nursing homes, the minister said.

READ ALSO: Everything that changes about life in Austria in February 2023

Roadmap to end all restrictions

From May, there will be no mask requirement in hospitals, nursing homes, and doctor’s offices. However, people in risk groups will be able to take time off work if they feel they would not be adequately protected at the workplace (and working from home is not an option) – this will be valid until the end of April.

As of July, all other measures will end with the expiration of the Covid Measures Act. Covid-19 will no longer be a notifiable disease, so people who test positive won’t have to follow any particular protocol. Currently, they must adhere to certain restrictions for 10 days, depending on the province.

READ ALSO: What’s happening in Vienna in February 2023?

The Covid Measures Act also allowed provinces to opt for stricter measures if they deemed necessary. The Austrian capital Vienna famously adhered to stricter regulations and is the only province where there is still an FFP2 mask mandate in public transport. 

With the expiration of the Act, Vienna will no longer be allowed to impose specific regulations and the mask requirement will fall.

Monitoring and new Epidemics Act

Rauch said that, even after the end of the reporting obligation, Austria would continue to monitor the course of the pandemic – particularly with the analysis of PCR samples and evaluation of wastewater in specific treatment plants nationwide.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why are so many people falling ill in Austria right now?

Additionally, he said that the Ministry of Health is working on a fundamental revision of the Epidemics Act. The aim is to send a draft bill with a “pandemic plan” that will include detailed descriptions of how to deal with various pandemic phases by the end of the year.