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EXPLAINED: Can I leave Austria to go on holiday during the lockdown?

Austria went into nationwide lockdown on Monday, with people largely confined to their homes. Under what circumstances can I leave the country?

A green exit sign at Vienna International Airport
Austria's lockdown rules are among the harshest in the world. Can you travel abroad? Photo by niklas schoenberger on Unsplash

As of Monday, November 22nd, Austria has gone into a nationwide lockdown. Whether for work, travel or to visit family, is it possible to escape the lockdown and head abroad? 

READ MORE: Thousands protest against Austria’s nationwide Covid lockdown

Here’s what you need to know. 

What are the rules of the lockdown? 

Bars, restaurants and shops will be forced to close, while people will be restricted from leaving their home other than for a handful of exceptional reasons, including shopping and exercise. 

While the lockdown is expected to run until December 12th for the vaccinated along with those who have recently had the virus and recovered, there is no deadline to the lockdown for the unvaccinated. 

A compulsory vaccination requirement will come into place from February. 

READ MORE: What we know about Austria’s plan for compulsory Covid vaccination

Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg made the announcements at a press conference on Friday

What are the exceptions to the stay-at-home order?

Austria’s stay-at-home order, sometimes discussed as a 24-hour curfew, requires that people stay at home other than for the “necessary basic needs of life”. 

While this has not been extensively defined as part of the new lockdown order, the language is the exact same as that used during Austria’s previous Covid lockdowns. 

Austria’s coronavirus lockdown: Under what circumstances can I leave my apartment?

At that time, the Austrian government clarified what people are allowed to do on several occasions to include visiting close family and friends, go to the doctor, exercise, shopping and going to work. 

You are also permitted to leave the house to avert danger

Unlike a handful of countries including the United Kingdom and Australia who put in place restrictions on allowing people to leave the country, Austria never put in place any restriction on people leaving the country and is not expected to do so this time around. 

Where people encountered difficulties, it usually related to restrictions put in place by another country on being allowed to enter, rather than any rule put in place by Austria. 

Can I go on holiday during the lockdown? 

Under the lockdown rules during winter of 2020/2021, Austrian residents were clearly allowed to leave Austria to visit close family members, partners or for professional reasons. 

Travelling to a second home outside of Austria is also permitted, Kurier reports. 

Therefore, as visiting family fits within the “necessary basic needs of life”, foreigners who live in Austria will not be prevented from heading to their countries of origin. 

They will also not be prevented from returning, provided their residency permits and visas remain valid. 

Whether you can leave Austria to go on holiday however remains a little less clear, although all of Austria’s neighbours remain open to arrivals from Austria. 

As of Monday, November 22nd, the travel advice from the Austrian Foreign Ministry still has all EU countries coloured green, i.e. meaning that there are no restrictions. 

It appears that while the government does not want to encourage people to head abroad on beach holidays by expressly saying this is permitted, there is little the government can do to prevent you from leaving. 

As written by Austrian media outlet Salzburg Nachrichten on Monday, “Anyone who wants to escape the lockdown by taking a long vacation trip abroad should be able to do so. It could only become problematic if the return takes place during the lockdown and none of the exceptions can be made credible during a police check.”

Key points: How will Austria’s new national lockdown work?

Constitutional and administrative lawyer Peter Bußjäger told Kurier during the previous lockdown that trips abroad are “officially not forbidden” and that an effort to fine someone for going on vacation “would probably not hold up in court”. 

“Prohibition norms have to be precise, but the regulation is not enough at this point,” he said. 

Bußjäger said a court would be likely to strike down an attempt to prevent someone from staying in a hotel abroad on a holiday – primarily as visits to second homes are allowed. 

Bußjäger said however that the reason for heading abroad would be relevant in the court’s decision. 

“It is understandable that there is a higher risk of infection in a hotel than, for example, when hiking,” he said. 

Even deciding to go abroad for a beach holiday would be looked at more favourably by the courts than, for instance, going abroad to stay in a thermal bath hotel, Bußjäger said. 

Please keep in mind that this report has been written as a guide only and does not constitute legal advice. 

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TRAVEL NEWS

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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