Austria’s coronavirus lockdown: Under what circumstances can I leave my apartment?

Austria’s coronavirus lockdown: Under what circumstances can I leave my apartment?
A man jogging during lockdown. Image: LOUISA GOULIAMAKI / AFP
From exercise to visiting a friend, what am I allowed to do under Austria’s lockdown rules?

Some parts of Austria have put in place ‘exit restrictions’, otherwise known as a curfew.

In some states this applies from 8pm to 6am, and in other states it applies for 24 hours a day. 

If this rule is in place in your part of Austria, you will not be allowed to leave the house, other than for a limited range of exceptions. 

READ: Everything you need to know about Austria’s coronavirus lockdown 

Leaving the house will only be permitted for the ‘necessary basic needs of life’. 

What are the ‘necessary basic needs of life’?

Under the rules, people will only be allowed to leave the house for the ‘necessary basic needs of life’. 

While these ‘needs’ are not expressly defined, the Austrian government has clarified what people are allowed to do on several occasions to include visiting close family and friends, go to the doctor, exercise, shopping and going to work. 

You are also permitted to leave the house to avert danger

Can I visit someone else in their home?

One area of confusion when the announcement was made related to contact restrictions. 

On Sunday evening, Austria’s Ministry of Health clarified the rules. 

As reported in Der Standard, the ‘one plus one’ rule applies. 

This means that only one individual is allowed to visit members of another household (regardless of the number of people in the household). 

One household will also be allowed to visit one individual in their private residence. 

This means that more than one member of one household is not allowed to meet several members of another household. 

Furthermore, the people visited must be “close family members” or “important contacts with whom contact is maintained several times a week”, rather than friends or acquaintances. 

Whether a person is defined as an “important contact” or not will depend on a case-by-case assessment, the government confirmed. 

What about if I live alone?

Another major source of confusion has been whether people who live alone are allowed to visit more than one person (i.e. in different households) for the duration of the lockdown. 

This is sometimes known in other countries as a ‘bubble’, with people having to stick to certain individuals that they can visit. 

Initially, Interior Minister Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) said that people who live alone should determine just one person/household they plan on visiting during the lockdown, with visits restricted to just that person or household. 

However, the Ministry of Health confirmed on Sunday evening that this rule does not apply. 

As reported in Der Standard, it “is also clear that one does not have to define one or more individual people who one meets during the lockdown – they can be different people, provided they fall under the terms “closest relatives” or “important reference persons”.

Can my kids go to school? 

Generally, where a hard lockdown has been put in place, schools will be either closed or lessons will take place online, i.e. ‘distance learning’. 

Face-to-face attendance at schools is prohibited except to provide care to those who cannot be at home. 

The current rule is that “all children who can be cared for at home should stay home”. 

More information is available here

Can I go to work? 

Under the lockdown rules, “anyone who can work from home is required to do so.”

While the word “can” is unfortunately not defined – office workers can do their jobs from home but bakers are likely to find this more challenging – this is probably more a question for your boss than for the police. 

Let’s go shopping!

While shopping is allowed under the new rules, heading up to Vienna’s high streets for that new Hugo Boss suit jacket to look good on your next Zoom call is unfortunately no longer permitted. 

Shopping is allowed only for “basic goods” which is basically anything you can get from a supermarket or pharmacy. 

As of April 2021, a harder lockdown has been put in place in the country’s east.

In this case, residents of one Austrian state in hard lockdown are not allowed to travel to another state to go shopping. 

If there’s anything else you want, remember that it’s 2021 and you can order almost anything online. 

What kind of exercise can I do? 

From Tuesday, the same rules for exercise that were in force in spring will apply (for non-professional athletes). 

Team sports are of course off limits, however individual sports like running, cycling or walking is allowed. 

Vice Chancellor and Sports Minister Werner Kogler (Greens) said it was important for Austrians to “keep moving” but said all sport must be done alone. 

“Keep moving in the fresh air. Walking, running helps to release tension. It is also a breath for the soul,” Kogler said. 

“(But) basically, please do this by yourself. Don’t meet up.”

Hiking is also allowed and there are no time limits for how long you can be outside. 

What else can I leave the house for?

Other than the above, visiting the doctor or other health professional is accepted, as is going to church (although most services are suspended), voting in elections, visiting a cemetery or taking care of animals. 

You’re also allowed to leave the house for urgent reasons – to avert danger to life, limb and property – but keep in mind that the police are likely to take this seriously. 

If you do leave the house, make sure to keep a metre of distance and wear mouth and nose protection. 

Funerals are allowed with a maximum of 50 people

When did the order come into place? 

Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the lockdown rule has come into place periodically before being relaxed again. 

As at Easter, 2021, for instance, a 24-hour stay at home order is in place for Vienna, Burgenland and Lower Austria, while the order only applies at night in the other six Austrian states. This has been continually extended in Vienna and Lower Austria, while in Burgenland it expired on April 18th. 

From Tuesday, November 17th, everyone in Austria was required to stay home 24 hours a day other than for a limited range of exceptions. 

The lockdown was in place until December 6th

On December 26th, the government again tightened lockdown rules – including reinstating the mandatory 24-hour stay-at-home order. 


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