In mid-February, Austria’s chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) announced the country would begin reopening, with most restrictions in place to contain the Covid-19 pandemic being lifted in March and venues such as nightclubs and apres-ski reopening after months of closure.
The city is fully open. The national government has lifted almost all restrictions in Austria: some mask requirements remain, as well as restrictions applying to, for example, care homes, hospitals, and positive cases. However, Vienna has retained a couple of extra restrictions. With regard to FFP2 face masks, they are obligatory in some situations. Notably when using public transport or taxis, inside stores or hairdressers, and inside museums, concert venues, cinemas and similar.
In Vienna, you need to meet the 2G rule in nightclubs, bars, restaurants, coffee houses and similar gastronomic areas (also those within wider institutions). This rule also applies to indoors sports facilities such as gyms. After the Austrian government decided to lift most anti-Covid measures, weekend saw citizens flocking to restaurants, bars and clubs across the country in what some club-owners have described as spring fever. People no longer need any type of health pass to enter crowded venues and, on top of that, the curfew has also gone away.
In mid-February, Austria’s chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) announced the country would begin reopening, with most restrictions in place to contain the Covid-19 pandemic being lifted in March and venues such as nightclubs and apres-ski reopening after months of closure. In mid-March, further changes were announced, including a cap on tests and an alteration to the isolation policy, both of which apply from April.
“In the hospitality sector, there is no more G-proof required, so guests can check-in without showing proof of vaccination, recovery or negative tests”
The so-called spring awakening, when most restrictions were lifted, happened on 5th March, with swarms of people visiting nightclubs and parties all over the alpine country.
The midnight curfew for restaurants was also lifted as nightclubs, and apres-ski venues were allowed to reopen. The upper limit on event attendees was also lifted, and 2G and 3G rules, meaning the need to prove vaccination or recovery (2G) or vaccination, recovery or tested status (3G), has also been removed in most places.
The main rules that continue to apply nationwide are the FFP2 mask mandate in public transport and essential retail, such as supermarkets, banks, pharmacies, and hospitals or elderly care homes. In the health sector, the 3G rules continue to apply. However, there is still a recommendation to wear the masks in enclosed spaces. The 3G requirement at work, which has been in place since 1st November and applied to all workplaces where you can’t rule out coming into close contact with others, has also been lifted.
Austria’s test strategy is likely to change soon, though, as the country plans to phase out mass Covid testing on 31st March. Instead, a more “targeted test strategy” would follow, as Parliament approved an amendment to the infection law allowing the Health Ministry to determine test strategies. The federal government’s are the minimum standard for rules and regulations, and states in Austria are free to adopt stricter measures.
This is the case of Vienna, as often happened during the pandemic, there is a separate set of rules. There is an FFP2 mask requirement for all customers in trade and body-related services. For personnel in vital trade, the FFP2 mask requirement only applies where there is direct customer contact. There is no longer a mask requirement for personnel in the non-essential business. For body-related service, there is still a requirement for customers, but not staff. Vienna is keeping the 2G rule to gastronomy, though the mask requirement is waived for staff and customers. There is no more curfew, and night gastronomy is allowed to open, but also with a 2G rule.
In the hospitality sector, there is no more G-proof required, so guests can check-in without showing proof of vaccination, recovery or negative tests. However, the 2G rule applies to the catering areas in Viennese hotels. There is no upper limit of attendees for meetings and events but an FFP2 mask requirement in enclosed spaces. The mask also applies indoors for leisure and cultural facilities. For sports, there is a 2G rule when it is indoors, but no more FFP2 mask requirement and no restrictions on outdoor sports.
Children and teenagers from the age of six need an entrance test where the G-rule applies to adults. Up to 12 years, the 3G applies, including the so-called “ninja passport” for kids of school age. For children aged 12 to 15 years, a PCR test can be presented and is valid for 48 hours. From April 1st, residents in Austria will be entitled to five PCR and five antigen tests per month in a departure from the unlimited free tests that are currently available.
Covid-19 tests will also be available for symptomatic cases and those in at-risk settings, such as in schools and hospitals. According to the ORF, the Austrian national broadcasting agency, Klaus Friedl, chairman of the gastronomy section of the Styrian Chamber of Commerce, explained that the sector is seeing a full spring awakening. He also explained that the catering industry hopes that will see a full recovery by mid-2023.
This, however, creates a contradiction with Austria’s mandatory Covid-shot policy and a situation where it will be very hard to enforce it. Notably, in the past, authorities used pandemic restrictions and the Green Certificate as a way to distinguish the unvaccinated. With measures going away that will become much harder. At the same time, according to the Ministry of Health, the mandate has had very little effect on vaccination rates and there are a million adults in the country, who are subject to a fine. Now, the government is set to decide whether to drop portions of the mandate.