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KEY POINTS: Austria announces new rules for winter tourism

"Strict rules, safe winter" is the ethos behind Austria's newly announced rules for the winter season, the Tourism Minister said. So what does it mean for ski resorts, Christmas markets and hotel stays?

Christmas Market outside Vienna City Hall
Christmas markets get the go-ahead, but with entry restrictions. Photo: WienTourismus/Christian Stemper

“It is important for the tourism industry that they now have the security to plan and prepare for the season. I am very pleased that this has been successfully agreed upon,” Austria’s Tourism Minister Elisabeth Köstinger said as the new set of rules were announced on Wednesday.

The precise details of the regulation will not be clear until it is passed later in the week, likely on Friday or Saturday, but the government has explained the main rules that will apply. Here’s what we can expect this winter.

Markets

Christmas markets are set to go ahead across the country, with a requirement for proof of 3G (vaccination, recovery from Covid-19, or a negative test) in order to enter.

This means that the market area will be clearly defined by a fence or tape, with staff checking people’s Covid passes as well as further random checks inside the market.

Dining and hotels

The rules that apply in these venues depend on the national risk level. Austria has been at level 1 since September 15th, and would enter level 2 from seven days after national intensive care bed occupancy exceeds 15 percent, going up to level 3 from seven days after intensive care bed occupancy exceeds 20 percent.

At a level 1 situation, these can be accessed with proof of 3G; at level 2, rapid antigen self-tests are no longer accepted as 3G; and at level 3, the 2.5G rule applies (proof of vaccination, recovery or a PCR test only, not an antigen test, even if it was carried out by a professional).

The rules are slightly stricter for what’s called ‘night gastronomy’ (late-night dining and drinking, such as pubs and bars) — see below.

Ski resorts

Proof of 3G will also be mandatory in cable cars, except in situations where the cable car is being used as a means of public transport, for example by local residents.

This means that a pass to a cable car is only considered valid for as long as your 3G proof is valid (ie. if you are showing a negative PCR test, your ticket is only valid until 48 hours after your test). If you bought a ticket before this rule came into effect, it means the ski resort will likely have to check your 3G proof repeatedly.

Apres-ski venues and ‘night gastronomy’ (including outside ski resorts) are covered by the same rules. These mean that at a level 1 situation, these can be accessed with proof of 3G; but at level 2, the 2G rule applies, meaning that only proof of vaccination or recovery are accepted for entry. 

Could things get stricter?

Yes, if the situation requires — but it’s extremely unlikely we will see another lockdown. If Austria goes beyond level 3 with more than 20 percent of intensive care beds occupied, stricter measures can be brought in, which the government has said are likely to apply to unvaccinated people in particular.

Note that individual states have the power to introduce stricter rules at the regional level. Municipalities will also get increased powers to introduce restrictions on night gastronomy including reduced opening hours.

If you have questions about Covid-19 or another issue linked to life in Austria, contact our editorial team at [email protected] and we will do our best to help. 

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LATEST: What are Austria’s current Covid-19 rules?

Travellers entering the country no longer need to show proof of vaccination or a negative test, but masks are still mandatory in some places.

LATEST: What are Austria's current Covid-19 rules?

From Monday, May 16th, travellers coming into Austria no longer need to present proof that they have either been vaccinated against Covid-19, have tested negative for the disease, or recently recovered from it.

Previously, the so-called 3G rules were in place for all people coming into Austria, with very few exceptions.

The government over the weekend dropped the requirements just ahead of warmer months, stating that the epidemiological situation no longer justified them.

On Sunday, 15th, Austria reported 3,777 new coronavirus cases after just under 110,000 PCR tests were taken. In total, 807 people are currently hospitalised with the disease, and 62 are in intensive care units. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 18,303 people have died from Covid-19 in Austria.

Despite dropping the entry requirements, the federal government reiterated that the rules could change, mainly if a variant of concern is found.

READ ALSO: Austria extends Covid regulations as experts warn of autumn resurgence

Domestically, Austria still has a few coronavirus restrictions in place, including an FFP2 mask mandate in some areas.

These are the latest rules you need to be aware of:

FFP2 mask mandate

The obligation to wear an FFP2 mask only applies in enclosed spaces of hospitals, elderly and nursing homes, public transport (including stops and stations), taxis, customer areas of vital trade, such as supermarkets, and administrative buildings.

The mask mandate is no longer in place for enclosed places like gyms, restaurants and bars, and cultural establishments, but masks are still recommended.

READ ALSO: Tourists: What to do if you test positive for Covid in Austria

Isolation after a positive test

After the fifth day of isolation and at least 48 hours without symptoms, you can end quarantine for mild or asymptomatic cases.

However, there is a “traffic restriction” for another five days, with a mask mandate and no entry permitted in gastronomy venues, health and care homes, and events during this period.

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

In order to obtain an early lifting of the restrictions, a free PCR test can be carried out. If the test is negative or with a CT value (short for Cycle Threshold and is the gold standard for detecting Covid-19) above 30, the isolation can be lifted.

If the value is below 30, then you must remain in isolation.

Vienna doesn’t follow the ‘traffic restriction’, so the only way to end the 10-day isolation is with a PCR test (negative or CT value below 30) after two symptom-free days.

You can find more information on federal restrictions on the government website here.

The 3G rule

A 3G rule (proof that a person has either been vaccinated against Covid-19, recently recovered from the disease or has a negative test) is generally only needed for visitors, employees and service providers in hospitals and care homes.

READ ALSO: Ba.4 and Ba.5 Covid variants detected in Austria: What you need to know

In Vienna, on the other hand, the rules are stricter.

Visitors and workers need to have the 3G proof plus a negative PCR test. However, the city has dropped 2G rules for gastronomy and nightclubs – the only places where it was still required to show proof of vaccination or recovery.

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