On February 8, Austria’s lockdown will come to an end, and schools, shops, and services will reopen – with new and stricter rules than before.
Austria’s third “hard” lockdown started on December 27 and was meant to bring the 7-day-incidence of new infections to below 50 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants. As of February 1, when the Austrian government presented their opening strategy, the number stood still at 105.
Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) underlined that Austria’s lockdown had a strong effect in bringing the number of infections down. However, “the virus mutations counteract these advances” to some degree, Kurz asserted.
The government planned its opening strategy with several competing needs in mind. Namely, the “psychological needs of children to get back to school”, the goal of “keeping unemployment low” as well as considering “psychological effects” of the restrictions. “Tougher rules” should help contain infection rates despite a “cautious reopening,” the chancellor and Health Minister Rudolf Anschober (Greens) maintained.
We also prepared a video for you with the short rundown of the opening steps.
Here’s how the reopening, starting on February 8, should work in more detail:
- FFP 2 masks will be mandatory in all indoor spaces and on public transport.
- The obligatory distance to other people in public will now be extended to 2 meters.
- The night-time curfew will remain in force for the time between 20:00 in the evening and 06:00 in the morning.
- Schools will resume in-person instructions for all students after the semester holidays.
- For Vienna and Lower Austria, that means February 8.
- For all other federal states, that means February 15.
- Regular testing for teachers and students at school will be a core element of the opening strategy.
- The tests will be:
- conducted two times a week.
- mandatory for everyone who wants to take part in in-person instructions.
- for free and pain-free, with a new and improved rapid antigen tests.
- The tests will be:
- Kindergartens and elementary schools will resume quasi “normal” childcare and teaching after the semester holidays.
- School children aged 10-14 (Unterstufe – i.e. Mittelschulen, first four years of Gymnasium etc.) will have classes in a “shift system,” effectively reducing the sizes of classes at any one time.
- One group will be at schools on Mondays and Tuesday, the other group on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
- Fridays will remain a day for distance teaching where all students stay at home.
- Students aged 14-18/19 (Oberstufe – i.e. HTLs, HAKs, last four years of Gymnasiums etc.) can also return to schools.
- They will be taught in shifts, too (see above).
- Additionally, FFP 2 masks will be mandatory for most students of this age group.
- Shops and stores will be allowed to reopen on February 8.
- FFP 2 masks will be mandatory for employees and customers.
- The number of square meters “reserved” per customers is now 20 m².
- Museums, libraries and zoos can also reopen on February 8.
- For these institutions, the same requirements as for stores will be valid: mandatory FFP 2 masks and a restricted number of visitors.
- Service providers “close to the body” – e.g. hairdressers – can also reopen again on February 8.
- Regular industry-wide testing for employees will be conducted.
- Customers will have to present a negative coronavirus test no older than 48 hours to be allowed in, the so called “entry-testing” (Eintrittstesten).
- The tests need to have been conducted at “official sites” (e.g. doctor’s office, pharmacy or a free testing facility of the city or federal state) – home tests do not count.
- Confirmation has to be provided in paper or electronically (e-mail, sms etc.).
- Service providers will control this testing requirement and will themselves be controlled by the police.
Culture, Sports, Gastronomy
- Cultural venues such as opera houses, theaters, cinemas, concert halls and many more will remain shut for the time being.
- Outdoor sports facilities are open and available, except for certain “contact team sports.”
- Indoors sports facilities like fitness centers will also remain shut for now.
- Restaurants and bars will remain closed, as will all hotels.
- Take-away will be possible just like during the lockdown.
- People will be allowed to meet one other household starting on February 8, with a maximum group of 4 adult people.
- The night-time curfew from 20:00 in the evening to 06:00 will stay in effect.
- Border controls will be tightened, travelers will have to present a negative coronavirus result not older than 48 hours when entering the country.
New Restrictions Possible
The government wants to revisit the situation regarding Austria’s lockdown in two weeks. If exponential growth should resume again, which the chancellor called “a realistic scenario,” restrictions would once again be reimposed, Kurz cautioned.
Health Minister Rudolf Anschober (Greens) called on people to follow the hygiene, safety and distance rules also after the reopening. It is now up to “each and everyone of us how things will continue until Easter,” the minister said.
For the second quarter of this year, significantly higher amounts of vaccine deliveries and more daily vaccinations are pencilled in. Anschober hopes to have 10% of the population vaccinated by April of this year. The government and experts hope that the situation will thus improve step-by-step around and after Easter.