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COVID-19 HEALTH PASS

Austria mulls banning unvaccinated from cafes, restaurants and gyms if ICU situation worsens

The Austrian government has warned that unvaccinated people ‘could be banned’ from restaurants and cafes if intensive care situation worsens.

Austria mulls banning unvaccinated from cafes, restaurants and gyms if ICU situation worsens
Photo: TOM LITTLE / AFP

Further restrictions are likely in Austria according to Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein, if intensive care beds go beyond 25 percent capacity (500 beds), he has told the Kleine Zeitung newspaper.

Unvaccinated people may be banned from restaurants and cafes, with only those who have been vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19 allowed in.

Under current rules, people who have not been vaccinated and have not had the virus recently and recovered can still get a negative test in order to visit a restaurant, bar or gym. 

The government has indicated it will use hospitalisations – and particularly ICU beds – as the relevant metric in further tightenings. 

From September 15th, Austria will tighten a range of measures, with stricter rules for unvaccinated people. 

EXPLAINED: What are Austria’s tighter Covid measures ‘for the unvaccinated’?

Broadcaster ORF reports that Vienna City Councilor for Health Peter Hacker (SPÖ) also assumes that stricter measures will soon be necessary and says experts fear the step-by-step approach laid out by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz on Wednesday may mean measures come too late to stop the fourth wave in Austria.

The head of the Complexity Science Hub Vienna (CSH), Stefan Thurner, has told the APA press agency that the situation was comparable to a car approaching a wall and braking too late, the Krone newspaper reports.

What further measures have already been set in stone? 

If more than 15 percent of capacity is reached for seven successive days, unvaccinated people will no longer be allowed into nightclubs and larger events, i.e. events with more than 500 people without assigned seats. 

Only those who are vaccinated or who have recently recovered from the virus will be allowed to enter. 

This means that people cannot enter with proof of a negative test. 

EXPLAINED: What is Austria’s Covid-19 green card and how do I get it?

Also, so-called self tests will no longer be accepted as proof of a negative test (in areas where negative tests are still accepted). 

If more than 20 percent of ICU capacity is reached for seven successive days, antigen tests will no longer be valid for bars, restaurants, gyms, hairdressers and other areas where the 3G rule applies, with only those who have been vaccinated, recently recovered or who have taken a negative PCR test allowed to enter.  

 

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Austria recommends 4th Covid vaccine dose for everyone over 12

Austria's autumn Covid-19 plan includes a fourth Covid-19 dose to all those older than 12 and the Health Ministry doesn't rule out further measures, especially a return of the mask mandate.

Austria recommends 4th Covid vaccine dose for everyone over 12

Austria’s Health Ministry and the country’s National Immunisation Panel (NIG) have recommended a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine to the general population ahead of autumn.

Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) and physician Herwig Kollaritsch of the Immunisation Panel have requested people take the vaccination before the cold months, reiterating that the Covid-19 vaccine is safe and protects against more severe courses of the disease.

“You can do a lot before autumn. Don’t wait until the numbers rise. Get vaccinated, take the booster shots”, Kollaritsch said in a press conference this Wednesday, August 31st.

READ ALSO: LATEST: The Covid rules across Austria from August 2022

The previous recommendation was only for people older than 60 or those in risk groups. “After there was already the booster recommendation for the vulnerable and over 60-year-olds over the summer, all other groups are to get a booster in the coming weeks,” the health minister said.

Only 58.9 percent of the population is currently sufficiently vaccinated, as per the recommendation of the National Immunisation Panel (NIG) – which for the majority of the population is three doses – or if they’ve had Covid then two doses and a recent recovered status.

New measures ahead of autumn

The health minister stopped short of announcing new Covid-19 measures for autumn.

When he announced the end of the mask mandate in the country back in May, Rauch had said the suspension would be “temporary” and masks were likely to return after summer, depending on the pandemic, particularly on hospitalisation numbers.

Currently, masks are obligatory in the health sector and on public transport in Vienna.

“We evaluate the situation weekly by talking with the hospital heads in the states. We have a very good view of the Covid-19 data, and we don’t rule out bringing measures back in the future”, he said.

READ ALSO: Vienna extends stricter Covid-19 rules until late October

He added: “It is likely that in the autumn, compulsory masks will again be useful and necessary in certain areas such as public transport or supermarkets,”.

For now, though, the minister said he recommends people to get vaccinated, wear masks where social distancing is not possible, and get tested regularly – even if those measures are not mandatory.

When should you get vaccinated?

The fourth vaccination should come a minimum of four months after the third one (or after a Covid-19 infection) but not after six months of the third dose (regardless of whether or not the person has had an infection after the last vaccine), according to the NIG.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Which Austrian states will allow Covid-infected teachers in classrooms?

For children between five and eleven years of age, the basic immunisation – which consists of three vaccinations – should be completed by the start of school at the latest; no booster vaccination is currently recommended in this age group.

Austria expects vaccines adapted to the omicron variant to arrive in the country before the end of September, the health minister said.

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