Covid rules: mask requirements remain in place for Austrian schools

Despite the reopening steps over the weekend, the mask rules at schools and universities will remain mostly in place in Austria.

children wearing masks
Masks will continue to be mandatory in Austrian schools despite reopening steps (Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash)

When schools and university classes resume after the Easter break, students and teachers will go back to a familiar setting in more than one way. Austria has decided to keep the mask requirements in education for the time being, according to the Ministry of Education.

Students must have a surgical mask (known in Austria as MNS) outside of classrooms and group rooms in school, up to the 8th school level. From the 9th school level, there is an FFP2 mask requirement.

Vaccinated or recovered teachers wear masks throughout the school building, but not in classrooms and group rooms. Teachers who have not been vaccinated or recently recovered from Covid-19 have to wear masks in the classrooms.

READ ALSO: UPDATED: The latest coronavirus restrictions in Austria

Testing schemes

The frequent Covid-19 tests in schools are also changing, according to the Ministry of Education.

There is a mandatory weekly PCR test, down from the twice-a-week requirement, and antigen tests should be available in some instances, such as when there are positive cases of Covid in the class.

READ ALSO: Austria to discontinue ‘Ninja’ test booklet after Easter break

How about the universities?

Things can get more confusing in higher education since each university regulates its own corona requirements.

Most universities will keep an FFP2 mask requirement for the time being, at least in common areas, Vienna.AT reported.

Austria’s mask mandate

Last week, Austria had removed most of the coronavirus restrictions, including mandatory masks in most – but not all – indoor places.

As masks will continue to be used in schools and universities of the alpine country, they are also mandatory in enclosed spaces of hospitals, elderly and nursing homes, public transport, taxis, and customer areas of vital trade, including supermarkets.

The mask mandate has been dropped in enclosed places like gyms, restaurants and bars, and cultural establishments, although masks are still recommended here.

At the same time, the Austrian government announced an end to the so-called 3G rule. People will no longer have to present proof that they have been vaccinated, recently recovered or tested negative to enter most places – including Viennese bars and restaurants, where the even stricter 2G rules (vaccinated or recovered) were in place.

3G rules still apply to visitors, employees, and service providers in hospitals and care homes. Some universities will also keep the rules at least until the end of the month.

READ ALSO: Tourists: What to do if you test positive for Covid in Austria

COVID numbers keep going down

Austria has seen a substantial decline in the number of new coronavirus infections.

According to the Ministry of Health, just over 7,000 new cases were recorded on April 17th. There were 1,885 people in hospitals with Covid-19, 99 fewer than the day before, and 161 people in intensive care units.

In Austria, 16,420 people have died from the virus since the beginning of the pandemic.

The country has just under 70 per cent of its population fully vaccinated, meaning they have two doses of an approved vaccine within validity.

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Reader question: Where can I get tested for Covid-19 in Austria?

Since the beginning of May, street testing sites have no longer been available - and free antigen tests are becoming harder to find in Austrian pharmacies. So, what should you do if you suspect you have Covid or need a test?

Reader question: Where can I get tested for Covid-19 in Austria?

In theory, the Austrian Health Ministry’s instructions for dealing with a possible Covid-19 infection are quite simple: stay at home, reduce contacts, wear an FFP2 mask if necessary, and call the health hotline 1450.

Then, an infection would be confirmed via a test sent by the health hotline or, according to the ministry, after using a test in one of the so-called Teststraße, specific locations dedicated to offering the free Covid-19 tests, either via a swab in the nose or mouth.

READ ALSO: Everything that changes in Austria in May 2023

However, in practice, implementing these guidelines is proving to be difficult in Austria. At the end of April, all test lanes and gargle boxes were discontinued, which has made it challenging for individuals to get tested for Covid-19. When calling the health hotline, many employees say they are overloaded and have no more testing capacity, according to Austrian media reports.

Even in pharmacies, the stocks of antigen or PCR tests are going down every day. The offer for five free antigen tests per person per month was extended until June 30th, but supplies have been low for weeks, according to Austrian pharmacists.

The demand for testing is high, given the current infection numbers. On average, around 650 new infections are reported every day, with the number of unreported cases increasing from day to day, as shown by a comparison with the figures from wastewater monitoring, Der Standard reported.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Do I still have to wear a face mask due to Covid-19 rules in Austria?

How can I get tested in Austria?

Despite the difficulties, every month, in addition to the five rapid antigen tests – if you can get hold of them at a pharmacy – each person is also entitled to five free PCR tests. However, how to get them varies from state to state in Austria.

In Vienna, as part of the “Everyone gargles!” campaign, Viennese citizens can pick up five gargle tests at all Bipa stores. The sample can then be returned to one of the collection points (including Rewe stores, gas stations, and participating pharmacies).

The free PCR tests can also be done in pharmacies all over Austria, which seems to work well. Viennese people can split the five free PCR tests, taking about two tests in pharmacies and doing three “Alles gurgelt!” tests, for example.

READ ALSO: Austria to drop all Covid restrictions by the end of June

To simplify the process of getting tested for Covid-19, registering for a PCR test at the pharmacy at can help shorten and streamline the process.

However, many testing sites also offer testing without pre-registration.