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COVID-19 RULES
Austria’s lockdown for the unvaccinated to end on Monday
After more than two months, Austria's lockdown for unvaccinated people will end on January 31st, the government announced on Wednesday, but widespread 2G rules will remain in place.
Published: 26 January 2022 12:10 CET
Next week will see the end to one of Austria's most stringent Covid-19 measures. Photo: Tobias Schwarz/AFP
The partial lockdown means that people without proof of 2G (full vaccination or recent recovery from Covid-19) are only allowed to leave home for special reasons including food shopping or physical exercise.
Chancellor Karl Nehammer and Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein confirmed on Wednesday that the lockdown would end next week.
Nehammer reiterated that bringing in the measure had been “unavoidable for health policy reasons”, but said that after consultation with the GECKO crisis committee, the government had decided there was no longer an immediate risk of intensive care capacity being overloaded.
There are currently just under 200 people in Austria’s ICUs for Covid, compared to around 600 when the measure was first introduced.
Political support for the measure has waned in recent weeks, with calls to end the lockdown coming from multiple regional governors of different parties in recent days.
READ MORE: Will Austria ease its Covid restrictions soon?
Police were responsible for carrying out spot checks, and at any police checks already being carried out for other reasons, for example traffic controls, police can now ask for proof of 2G. Additional checks focused on areas where people come into close contact with others, such as on public transport, at restaurants, and in busy shopping areas. 
The fines for violating the lockdown for the unvaccinated are €500, while refusing to participate in checks carries a fine of up to €1,450.
However, it remains to be seen exactly how the change will work in practice when the end to lockdown is passed in parliament on Friday, or whether any of Austria’s other Covid measures will be relaxed — Mückstein said on Twitter that “all the other strict measures are effective and remain in place”.
Even before the lockdown for people without 2G was introduced, many public venues including restaurants and museums had a 2G requirement, and that remains the case currently.
When the lockdown was brought in, the main change in practice was that people without 2G were also banned from non-essential retail, as well as libraries and museums.
And as of February, Austria’s vaccine mandate will come into effect. This means that people who are not vaccinated against Covid-19 will face fines, with the first of these set to be issued from mid-March following an initial ‘information’ phase. 
READ MORE: How does Austria’s vaccine mandate compare to other countries?
The Local
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EXPLAINED: How Austria’s compulsory vaccine mandate could be back in June
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LATEST: What are Austria’s current Covid-19 rules?
COVID-19 ALERT
EXPLAINED: How Austria’s compulsory vaccine mandate could be back in June
The much-debated policy sparked controversy since before it was approved in February, meaning that May could be a definitive month in the country.
Published: 16 May 2022 10:43 CEST
Austria’s Federal Government has a ticking time bomb on its hands: an ordinance that suspended its vaccine mandate law is set to expire by the end of May, which means that the controversial mandatory vaccination would be again in place as early as June 1st.
In order to keep that from happening, Austria’s Health Ministry needs to extend the current regulation or create a new one.
If it doesn’t, the Covid-19 mandatory vaccination law would automatically be back in June.
READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What are Austria’s plans to bring back the vaccine mandate?
Since, by June, the vaccine mandate stated that non-vaccinated would start getting fines, the resumption of the law would mean that, from next month, those who are not vaccinated could be fined in routine checks, such as traffic checks.
The ins and outs of the vaccine mandate
The law was first introduced in February, even though the technical requirements for it to be enacted were not in place. The first stage of it was purely “informational”, and Austrian residents received letters explaining about vaccines and about the regulation.
A second stage, when people could have been fined if they were not vaccinated, was set to start in mid-March. Before a single person was fined, though, Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) suspended the law with an ordinance.
The law was suspended for a variety of reasons, primarily due to the relatively high vaccination coverage the country had already received, along with the lower virulence of the Omicron variant. 
READ ALSO: Austria to scrap mandatory Covid vaccinations
To create a new regulation or extend the existing one stopping people from being fined, Rauch must await the report of the vaccination commission, which should be ready in May, according to the Ministry.
The coronavirus commission will assess whether the Vaccination Act is suitable and useful from a medical and legal point of view. A previous report said there were arguments for and against mandatory vaccination for those who were completely unvaccinated.
READ ALSO: How Austria’s attempt to make vaccines mandatory changed the country
Der Standard reports there is little political support for compulsory vaccination and says there are still technical problems regarding automated fines. However, according to the Ministry of Health, the infrastructure should be completed in June.
Amanda Previdelli
news@thelocal.at
@aprevidelliEN
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