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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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COVID-19 RULES

Austria to drop all Covid restrictions by the end of June

Austria's government announced the country would be back to "normal operation" in July, including in the capital Vienna. Here's what this means.

Austria to drop all Covid restrictions by the end of June

On Wednesday, February 1st, Austria’s federal government announced it would end all Covid-19 crisis measures by the end of June.

In a press conference, Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) explained that vaccinations, tests and medications would be integrated into the regular structures of the national health system. 

There will be no more free tests, except for people with symptoms and patients at risk, and those will be carried out only by family doctors or in hospitals. However, vaccination will remain free of charge and available at various points, including at family doctor’s offices. 

“The virus is here to stay, and we are preparing to live with it in the long term,” Rauch said. 

All current measures will be dropped in phases, including mask requirements, obligation to report illness, and special rules for doctors and nursing homes, the minister said.

READ ALSO: Everything that changes about life in Austria in February 2023

Roadmap to end all restrictions

From May, there will be no mask requirement in hospitals, nursing homes, and doctor’s offices. However, people in risk groups will be able to take time off work if they feel they would not be adequately protected at the workplace (and working from home is not an option) – this will be valid until the end of April.

As of July, all other measures will end with the expiration of the Covid Measures Act. Covid-19 will no longer be a notifiable disease, so people who test positive won’t have to follow any particular protocol. Currently, they must adhere to certain restrictions for 10 days, depending on the province.

READ ALSO: What’s happening in Vienna in February 2023?

The Covid Measures Act also allowed provinces to opt for stricter measures if they deemed necessary. The Austrian capital Vienna famously adhered to stricter regulations and is the only province where there is still an FFP2 mask mandate in public transport. 

With the expiration of the Act, Vienna will no longer be allowed to impose specific regulations and the mask requirement will fall.

Monitoring and new Epidemics Act

Rauch said that, even after the end of the reporting obligation, Austria would continue to monitor the course of the pandemic – particularly with the analysis of PCR samples and evaluation of wastewater in specific treatment plants nationwide.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why are so many people falling ill in Austria right now?

Additionally, he said that the Ministry of Health is working on a fundamental revision of the Epidemics Act. The aim is to send a draft bill with a “pandemic plan” that will include detailed descriptions of how to deal with various pandemic phases by the end of the year. 

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