Four options: These are Austria’s autumn Covid lockdown plans

As Austria removed quarantine requirements for people who tested positive for Covid-19, many fear numbers will rise and lead to a new lockdown. So what are the government's plans?

positive covid test
People who test positive for Covid-19 will no longer have to avoid the workplace - with an exception in Linz. Photo: DAMIEN MEYER / AFP

Austria will remove the mandatory self-isolation requirement for people who test positive for Covid-19 from August 1st, as The Local reported on Tuesday.

People who do not feel sick will be allowed to leave their homes even after a positive Covid-19 test but will have to follow specific requirements, the Austrian federal government said.

The so-called “traffic restrictions” mean that those who don’t feel sick will be allowed to leave their homes but must wear an FFP2 mask indoors and outdoors whenever social distancing is not possible.

READ ALSO: Austria to remove quarantine for positive Covid-19 cases

Many experts are sceptical of the plans, though, calling them “irresponsible and dangerous” and warning that such a move could bring the health care system back to its limits.

What are the contingency plans for autumn?

One of the biggest fears is what will happen in the autumn and winter months when the cold brings people to enclosed areas and facilitates the spread of airborne viruses such as the coronavirus.

The federal government is reportedly working on a contingency plan, according to the newspaper Heute, which claims to have seen drafts of the plans.

It envisages four scenarios – numbered from the best to the worst case. In the best case scenario, Austrians can live free of any pandemic rules. In the second best, the situation will remain as it is currently.

READ ALSO: UPDATE: What are the fines for not wearing masks on Vienna’s public transport?

In scenario three, if new variants lead to more severe illness, the mask requirement will be expanded and more testing will be carried out.

There could be night-time exit restrictions, exit tests and restrictions on private meetings. In addition, major events could be stopped from taking place and nightclubs closed.

Scenario four, the worst case scenario, would mean vaccination no longer offered protection and hospitals became overwhelmed, leading to severe restrictions on people’s social lives.

READ ALSO: Schanigärten against Covid: Vienna to allow outdoor dining through winter

If all other protective measures fail, the last resort will be a new lockdown. “An early, short, but stringent lockdown – if not avoidable – is preferable”, the drafted plan states.

Covid-19 infections appear to be falling

While there is no sure prediction of what will happen in the next few months, currently, Covid-19 infections appear to be falling in Austria.

Austria’s Covid-19 traffic light system has classified Tyrol and Vorarlberg as a medium risk rather than high risk. Only Carinthia and Vienna saw an increase in infections. Styria has the lowest risk assessment, while Vienna has the highest.

READ ALSO: Will Austria bring back its mask mandate before autumn?

The situation in the hospitals is currently relatively stable, both in terms of normal and intensive care units.

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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.