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Austria announces further easing of coronavirus measures in June and July

Austria will relax several coronavirus measures from in June and July including rules for masks, weddings, eating out and curfews. Here's what you need to know.

Restrictions on the number of people who can meet in a restaurant will be relaxed. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)
Restrictions on the number of people who can meet in a restaurant will be relaxed. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)
 
Austria has announced it will take steps to further relax existing measures from June 10th and then July 1st, with Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announcing he will keep the promise he made that there would be a “return to normal” in the summer.

Kurz said the progress in the vaccination campaign meant there was an “ideal basis” for the next opening steps.

 
Gatherings
 
From July 1st the group restrictions for celebrations such as weddings and birthdays will no longer apply. Currently, food and drink may not be served at weddings and a maximum of 50 people are allowed to attend. However, there will be obligation to notify the authorities for gatherings of 100 guests or more and to get authorisation for gatherings of 500 or more people. 
 

Masks

From June 10th, the mask mandate will be relaxed for outdoor areas for people who have been vaccinated, have tested negative all those who have recently recovered from the virus.

Masks have been required in outdoor areas where the mandatory two-metre distance has been difficult to maintain, for example at protests or in public spaces where large amounts of people congregate.

The mask requirement will remain in retail, schools and on public transport for the time being. Discussions are ongoing over whether the FFP2 mask requirement can be replaced by mouth and nose protection.
 
 
Curfew
 
The curfew will be moved from 10pm to midnight on June 10th. This means people in Austria will be able to watch European Football Championship games in bars from June 11th. 
 
Retail, leisure and cultural venues
 
On June 10th the maximum occupancy of cultural venues will be increased to 75 percent (previously it was 50 percent). The ten-square-meter rule per person now applies in the leisure, sports and wellness sectors, allowing more people to use facilities at once. In retail, too, will be reduced from 20 to ten square meters per customer, meaning more people can enter shops.
From July 1st full occupancy at cultural and sporting venues will be possible both inside and outside.
 
 
Border rules
 
Pre-travel clearance will only be required if you are coming from a high-risk area. Discussions are ongoing over how to reduce traffic jams at Austria’s border crossings.
 
 
Restaurants

 
From June 10th, the mandatory closing time for restaurants will be increase from 10pm to midnight.
In addition, the number of people who may sit at a table will be doubled from four to eight people inside and up to 16 adults outdoors in the restaurant.
 
From July 1st there will also no longer any be any restrictions on group sizes in restaurants, pubs and cafes, but you will still have to provide evidence of having been vaccinated, recovered from or tested negative for Covid-19 to go there.

READ MORE: ‘3G Rule’: How to prove you have been vaccinated, tested or recovered from Covid in Austria

Clubs 

Discos and clubs are expected to reopen from 1st July. 

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COVID-19

Austria in shock over doctor’s suicide following anti-vax abuse

Austrians expressed shock and anger this week over the suicide of doctor who had been the target of a torrent of abuse and threats from anti-vaccination protesters.

Austria in shock over doctor's suicide following anti-vax abuse

The bells of Vienna’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral rang out in memory of Lisa-Maria Kellermayr on Monday, and hundreds of people held a candle vigil outside, after the 36-year-old doctor was found dead at her practice on July 29.

She had long been the target of death threats because of her criticism of the widespread anti-lockdown protests of 2021.

An autopsy later confirmed that Kellermayr had taken her own life.

Austria has found itself deeply polarised over coronavirus restrictions and in particular a government policy –subsequently dropped — of making vaccination against the coronavirus compulsory.

Kellermayr — whose practice was in the region of Upper Austria where immunisation rates are particularly low — had frequently complained of the menace.

“For more than seven months, we have been receiving… death threats from those opposed to coronavirus measures and vaccinations,” she wrote at the time, sharing a message from one internet user who said they would pose as a patient in order to attack her and her staff.

She described how she had “invested more than 100,000 euros” ($102,000) in measures to ensure her patients’ safety and was on the brink of bankruptcy.

Then, at the end of June, Kellermayr announced on her professional website that she would not be seeing patients until further notice.

Daniel Landau, who organised a memorial vigil for her in Vienna, said that Kellermayr had become a virtual recluse for several weeks. “She didn’t dare to leave” her office, Landau told AFP.

Fanning the aggression

On Saturday, the head of Austria’s doctors’ association, Johannes Steinhart, said that while aggressive behaviour towards medical staff was not new, it had been “fired up and noticeably aggravated” by the debate over Covid-19 and vaccines.

The police, who had previously suggested Kellermayr was exploiting the situation for attention, insist they did everything to protect her. The local prosecutor’s office also rejected suggestions it could have done more.

“As soon as we received the police report (identifying one of the suspects), we sent it over to the relevant authorities in Germany,” spokesman Christoph Weber said.

On Friday, prosecutors in the neighbouring German state of Bavaria said a 59-year-old suspect was being investigated by a specialist hate speech unit.

At the beginning of the week, Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen visited the small town of Seewalchen where Kellermayr lived to lay flowers in her memory.

After news of her death broke, he had appealed to Austrians to “put an end to intimidation and fear”.

‘They’re gagging us’

But on some Telegram groups, the hateful messages continue.

“Some people are celebrating her death; others believe the vaccine killed her,” said Ingrid Brodnig, a journalist and author who investigates online disinformation.

“Stricts laws exist” already against online hate, but not enough is done to implement them, Brodnig said.

One government minister has floated the idea of a separate prosecutor’s office to target such cases. Doctors and researchers have also been targeted elsewhere.

French infectious disease specialist, Karine Lacombe, described how she had been vilified for her work as part of a collective of doctors combatting coronavirus-related disinformation.

She, too, complained that the response from the authorities in the face of threats was not robust enough, and has scaled down her public appearances this year.

“You end up thinking that the risk isn’t worth it,” she told AFP. “In that sense (the aggressors) have won, they are gagging us,” she said.

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