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Q&A: What will Austria’s Covid restrictions be over Christmas and New Year?
There have been a lot of rule changes to keep up with in Austria in recent days and weeks, so here's an overview of the restrictions that apply over the Christmas holidays.
Published: 21 December 2021 13:56 CET Updated: 21 December 2021 15:48 CET
For tourists and residents, there are several different rules to know about in Austria this festive season. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP
What’s Austria’s 2G rule?
To understand the explanations that follow, the first thing you need to familiarise yourself with is Austria’s so-called 2G requirement. The ‘G’s are geimpft (vaccinated) and genesen (recovered, ie. from Covid-19) and you need to have proof that you fulfil one of these criteria in order to be exempt from the current lockdown and to access many parts of society.
To do that, you need either a medical certificate showing your recovery from Covid-19 within the past 180 days, or proof that you have received a full course of vaccination against Covid-19. That means you must have received either a second or third dose within the past 270 days. Up until January 3rd, a single dose of Johnson & Johnson is considered as valid proof of vaccination, after which you would need a second vaccine dose.
To make things more confusing, the exact definitions of accepted vaccines vary slightly depending on whether you’re looking at the rules for entering Austria or the domestic rules, for example to access restaurants or hotels. For the former, vaccines approved by the EMA or WHO are accepted; for the latter, only EMA-approved vaccines are considered valid proof. There are a few workarounds, for example people vaccinated with two doses of the Sputnik vaccine can get a booster of an mRNA vaccine and show the proof of this dose plus proof of antibodies to have valid 2G proof. You can read more detail on the 2G rules at the following links:
To enter Austria from most countries, you need proof of 2G (two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine or recovery from the virus) as well as either proof of a booster dose or a negative PCR test no older than 72 hours on entry to Austria.
If you do not have a booster or negative PCR test, you need to fill out a pre-travel clearance form before travel and enter quarantine on arrival until you can provide a negative PCR test result. Exemptions apply for people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, pregnant people, and children under 12.
Austrian and EU/EEA residents and citizens are able to enter Austria without 2G proof, but in that case they must fill out the pre-travel clearance form and enter a ten-day quarantine on arrival, which can be ended after five days at the earliest with a negative PCR test result.
Stricter rules are in place for entry from so-called virus variant risk areas. At the time of publication, those were: Angola, Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, and the Tiroler Tageszeitung has reported that the UK, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway will be added to this list from Friday December 24th. Entry to Austria from these countries is generally prohibited. Austrian and EU/EEA citizens, as well as people travelling for other essential reasons, may enter but need to fill out the pre-travel clearance form and enter a ten-day quarantine on arrival, which can be ended after five days at the earliest with a negative PCR test result.
Can I travel out of Austria to visit family abroad?
In most cases, yes, but you will need to follow the entry rules outlined above when you return.
Austria explicitly advises against travel to ten southern African countries, which means that if you travel there, your access to travel insurance may be affected, and it could also affect availability of flights. Those countries are: Angola, Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Austria also strongly discourages non-essential travel to most non-EU countries, and even those within the EU
It is also worth noting that the UK as well as many of Austria’s neighbours such as Italy and Germany have recently tightened rules on travel, which may mean you need to show a PCR test to be allowed entry or quarantine on arrival. Find out more about the travel rules by clicking here.
When returning from countries that aren’t on the virus variant risk list, Austrian and EU/EEA residents and citizens are able to enter Austria without 2G proof, but in that case they must fill out the pre-travel clearance form and enter a ten-day quarantine on arrival, which can be ended after five days at the earliest with a negative PCR test result.
Austrian and EU/EEA residents and citizens are allowed to enter Austria even from countries on the virus variant risk list, but in this case they must fill out the pre-travel clearance form and enter a ten-day quarantine on arrival, which can be ended after five days at the earliest with a negative PCR test result, even if they have 2G proof. The only exceptions to quarantine from a virus variant risk country are “people who arrive for unforeseeable, urgent, family reasons that are particularly worthy of consideration or for compulsory court or official appointments.”
Where do I need to wear a mask in Austria?
In most indoor public areas, including those which also have a 2G rule. That includes: all public transport; in restaurants and cafes except when seated at a table; at indoor public events over 25 people; in all shops including supermarkets and non-essential retail; at hairdressers and beauty salons; and in museums and hotels, for example.
Remember that in Austria, wherever there is a mask requirement the mask must be an FFP2 mask.
Are bars and restaurants open?
Restaurants are open with an 11pm curfew until at least early January. The one exception to this is December 31st when the nationwide curfew will be lifted (though regions do have the power to introduce their own curfew).
You need to wear a facemask except when seated at your table.
So-called night gastronomy (nightclubs and bars) are closed until at least early January.
What does the lockdown for unvaccinated people mean?
If you do not have proof of 2G (vaccination or recovery) then you are affected by Austria’s lockdown until at least January 1st.
This means you cannot enter venues such as non-essential retail stores, restaurants, or cultural facilities and should only leave your home for essential purposes such as food shopping or exercise.
There is an exception in place on December 24th, 25th, 26th and 31st to allow people to spend the holiday period with close friends or family: on these days, up to ten people may meet privately without needing 2G proof. You can find more detail on the lockdown by clicking here.
On December 24th, 25th and 26th as well as on December 31st, up to ten people will be allowed to meet privately without a requirement for 2G proof. Otherwise, people without 2G proof are under lockdown, and cannot meet other people for social purposes (unless they fall under the exemption for essential contact, for example if you live alone and are meeting with up to two members of one other household).
For people with proof of 2G, up to 25 people may meet privately over the Christmas period without needing to adhere to regulations for events.
Can I go skiing?
Ski resorts are open in Austria, unlike last winter, with Covid restrictions in place. That means you need proof of 2G to enter, and in lifts and cable cars. The ski season began in early December.
In gondolas and closed chair lifts, everyone aged over 15 needs an FFP2 mask and children aged between 7 and 14 should wear a face mask but it does not need to be FFP2.
Apres-ski bars remain closed until at least early January, but ordinary restaurants are open with the restrictions outlined above.
What do I do if I test positive for Covid-19, or have been in contact with someone who has?
If you test positive or are informed that someone you’ve had close contact with has tested positive, you need to call Austria’s health hotline for information. That’s 1450 from an Austrian phone or if you are using a foreign phone, it’s 0043 1 1450 (note the extra 1). They will give you information about arranging a test and other steps you need to follow. It should be possible to get English-language advice from this helpline — there is no separate number for tourists.
You should also stay at home and avoid all contact with other people. If you are on holiday in Austria, it’s a good idea to inform your accommodation provider if you test positive so that they can take steps to protect other guests from infection, and this is particularly important in any kind of shared accommodation. Note that even tourists are entitled to free Covid-19 tests if these are ordered by medical authorities.
You will need to quarantine if you test positive or are identified as a close contact of a positive case, and the length of quarantine depends on factors including your symptoms, PCR tests results in the case of close contacts, your vaccination status, and whether there is any suspicion you may have the Omicron variant of Covid-19. You should receive this advice from the 1450 helpline. Note that if you are in Covid-19 quarantine you are not permitted to undertake train or plane journeys. Healthcare authorities will inform you if you are allowed to travel privately, for example driving home, during quarantine.
Reader question: Do I need to wear a mask on flights to/from Austria?
The EU has eased recommendations for face masks on flights and in airports, but member states are free to put their own rules in place.
Published: 17 May 2022 10:41 CEST Updated: 22 May 2022 08:44 CEST
Since Monday, May 16th, it is no longer mandatory to wear a medical-grade face mask on flights and at airports within the EU.
But Austria will continue with the rule for now, meaning that masks are required on flights to Austria.
The implementation of the EU recommendation is based on the national rules in individual countries.
For flights, where a destination country has a mask rule in place, then masks must be worn.
An Austrian Airlines spokesperson told the Kronen Zeitung: “The easing of the mask requirement is an EU recommendation that must be reflected in a national regulation in order to also apply in Austria.”
The aviation safety agency EASA and the EU health authority ECDC states that if masks are mandatory on public transport at the point of departure or at the destination, then the regulation should also continue on board the aircraft.
According to current Austrian Covid-19 regulations, wearing an FFP2 mask is still required in hospitals, elderly and nursing homes, public transport (including stops and stations), taxis, customer areas of vital trade, such as supermarkets, and administrative buildings.