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Will Austria stick to the March deadline for opening restaurant terraces?

Austria hopes to open outdoor areas at restaurants by late March, but increasing coronavirus infection rates may see the plan scrapped. Here's what you need to know.

A man eats a sandwich in a Schanigarten
JOE KLAMAR/AFP

There are tentative plans for the Austrian government to allow restaurants with outdoor seating (Schanigarten) to open for outdoor dining from 27th March.

Explained: Everything you need to know about Austria’s plan to ease lockdown

In Vorarlberg, restaurants with outdoor seating are planned to open from 15th March. 

But will this go ahead – or could we be waiting longer? 

What safety measures could be in place?

Newspapers report the opening will be based on the following requirements: 

  • A recent negative test result for coronavirus (not older than 48 hours). 
  • Customers wearing FFP2 masks when not seated,  
  • Waiters and waitresses wearing FFP2 masks.
  • Only two households per table.
  • A closing time of 20:00 
  • Distance between each table of 1.5m

What are the problems with the plans? 

Coronavirus infections are rising rapidly and the number of intensive care beds occupied by corona cases has increased by 20 percent in one week.

Health Minister Rudolf Anschober has said he is “alarmed” by the latest figures, Der Standard newspaper reports.

However, Vienna’s Health Councillor Peter Hacker said if the vaccination program gathers pace, this could bring down the numbers in hospital. 

The other fear is that Germany is considering using a similar test strategy to Austria’s to open up.

Have your say: What is your favourite outdoor dining spot in Austria?

This could bring a shortage of antigen tests. Hacker says it could cause the tests to run out in “one swoop”. 

The government will make its decision  on 15th March on whether to open restaurants.

Do enough restaurants have outside areas for dining? 

In Vienna there are around 3,500 outdoor eating areas spread out around its 9,000 restaurants.

However, some restaurants do not have large enough outdoor areas to justify opening without indoor dining, especially with distance rules, according to Der Standard.

People enjoy sunny weather in Vienna’s Stadtpark (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Plan to use city parks in Vienna

Vienna’s mayor Michael Ludwig is considering using the Rathaus square, Karlsplatz,  Danube Canal and the Stadtpark as outdoor dining areas for bars and restaurants with no outdoor dining areas.

He is also looking into the possibility of food trucks, he told broadcaster ORF.

Normally the Stadtpark is used every year for the Viennese Gourmet Festival, which gives a good idea how dining in the park could work in practice. 

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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