UPDATED: What is Austria’s 5-stage Covid restrictions plan?

The different systems to measure the risk and spread of Covid in Austria can be complicated to understand, so here's a look at how they work.

Woman wears FFP2 face mask in clothes shop
From level 1, FFP2 masks are mandatory for unvaccinated people and recommended for others in all retail stores. Photo: Arturo Rey/Unsplash

Austria uses two different Covid classifications; a traffic light based risk assessment and a five-step plan for restrictions in society, which was updated on Friday, October 22nd.

What is the traffic light system?

The first is the so-called ‘traffic light’ risk classification. This system is used at the regional level and is updated each week, with the regions given a different risk classification corresponding to a colour: ‘very low risk’ is light green; ‘low risk’ is yellow-green; ‘medium risk’ is yellow; ‘high risk’ is orange, and ‘very high risk’ is red.

The traffic light system is based on the spread of infection and incidence rate. Although individuals are encouraged to adjust their behaviour based on these risk classifications and authorities can use them to inform measures, the classification does not directly link to different measures. 

READ MORE: What is Austria’s traffic light system?

Localised lockdown measures – i.e. stricter rules in different municipalities and regions – can be put in place as a result of Austria’s traffic light system. 

Broader measures put in place over a wider geographic area are according to the five-level classification laid out below. 

What is Austria’s new five-step Covid plan?

The levels 1-5 are measured differently, based on the burden on the healthcare sector and rate of hospitalisation, and they directly trigger different measures being introduced. Each set of measures comes into force immediately after a certain level of ICU bed occupancy is exceeded.

Previously, there were only three risk levels in the plan, but the government added two new levels in late October. Here’s what happens at each level.

Level 1: More than 200 occupied ICU beds (10 percent of capacity)

At this level, proof of 3G (vaccination, recovery or a negative test) is required for events for more than 25 people instead of more than 100, and in theatres, cinemas and similar venues.

In all areas that require 3G, antigen tests are only valid for 24 hours.

In evening dining venues and bars, a 2.5G rule is in place, meaning antigen tests are not accepted for entry and you need to show proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative PCR test no older than 72 hours.

At this level, mask recommendations are also tightened. FFP2 masks are mandatory in places which previously required only a normal face covering, such as at supermarkets and on public transport. Unvaccinated people must wear FFP2 masks in all retail venues and indoor cultural venues like museums, galleries and libraries.

Level 2: More than 300 occupied ICU beds (15 percent of capacity)

At this level, evening dining and bars as well as events for more than 500 people and without assigned seating will only be accessible with proof of 2G (vaccination or recovery, but not a negative test).

In addition, antigen tests performed at home will no longer be considered valid proof for the areas which require 3G.

Level 3: More than 400 occupied ICU beds (20 percent of capacity)

This level was updated on October 23rd. If level 3 is reached, a 2.5G rule (proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative PCR test but no antigen tests) will be introduced at all locations where a 3G rule was in place under level 2.

Note that individual regions have the possibility to introduce stricter measures if deemed necessary. Vienna has effectively been implementing these national level 3 regulations since earlier in the autumn, because Vienna uses its own risk level classification in addition to the national one.

READ ALSO: What are the Covid-19 rules and restrictions in Vienna now?

Level 4 : More than 500 occupied ICU beds (25 percent of capacity) 

Austria is entering level 4 as of November 8th, with ICU capacity expected to pass 25 percent during that week.

At this level, a 2G rule (vaccination or recovery only) is in effect for restaurants, hairdressers, beauty salons, and events for over 25 people.

FFP2 masks are required in all retail venues as well as libraries and museums.

Read more about the changes from November 8th at the link below:

Level 5: More than 600 occupied ICU beds (30 percent of capacity)

At this level, the government would implement a lockdown for unvaccinated people who would only be permitted to leave home for valid reasons.

This last level is introduced if the ICU occupancy rate exceeds 600 ICU beds (or 30 per cent occupancy).

The government is still working out the exact details of how restrictions would work at level 5.

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Austria to ditch all Covid-19 laws this year: health minister

Austria's health minister wants to bring the country back to "normal" and said on Saturday that all of Austria's Covid-19 laws and regulations would be abolished over the course of 2023.

Austria to ditch all Covid-19 laws this year: health minister

This means that people would no longer need to report Covid-19 infections, Johannes Rauch said in an interview with Austrian daily Kronen Zeitung.

The Green Party minister also said that, in his opinion, the current huge wave of infections in China no longer posed a great risk.

“We have taken the necessary precautionary measures. I don’t see any signs currently of a major threat,” he said.

However, wastewater monitoring would remain in place. Austria examines the wastewater from all flights arriving from China for Covid-19 variants.

READ ALSO: Austria to monitor wastewater of flights from China

But Rauch does not think the virus is going away. Nonetheless, he believes Austria is well prepared: “We have vaccines, we have drugs, we are monitoring the variants,” he said.

After three years of the pandemic, Austria has achieved a high level of immunisation in the population, he wrote on Twitter.

Covid-19 rules are not standardised across Austria and, outside of the capital, Covid-19 measures are no longer much in evidence.

But restrictions in stricter Vienna are set to loosen, too: the current requirement to wear a mask (Maskenpflicht) on public transport in the city will be abolished soon, Rauch said.

It was already dropped for the rest of the country last summer, although it is still compulsory to wear an FFP2 mask when visiting health and care facilities and, in Vienna, you also have to take a test before you go.

READ ALSO: Long Covid: What support is available in Austria?

Although Vienna’s state government Covid-19 policies have typically been stricter than the national government’s, Rauch told broadcaster ORF that he was confident that Vienna would slot in to the national regulations and said he planned to have discussions on the topic over the coming days.

He said he expected that all nationwide regulations would be dropped within the first six months of 2023.

The testing strategy is also set to change: only those with symptoms will be able to get free Covid-19 tests after June 30th, the minister said.

“Anyone who is ill will be tested,” he said.

Rauch also said he would draw lessons from the last few years and adapt the law on epidemics, which he told Kronen Zeitung was “not suitable for fighting a pandemic”.