The Coronavirus in Austria & Vienna | What Happened in May

The coronavirus has arrived in Austria. Here’s all you need to know about current measures, including where to get help, information and tips – updated regularly.

After the Austrian government took increasingly drastic measures in March to contain the coronavirus, the country successfully flattened the curve in April. In May, the country started to reopen shops, restaurants and public life – all still with strict hygiene restrictions.

For a wrap-up of current measures and developments, check out our current Coronavirus in Austria & Vienna article, with daily updates.

Here’s timeline of what happened in Austria in May 2020.

coronavirus curve
Here’s how Austria flattened the curve.

May 31, 2020:

May 30, 2020:

  • Masks will be no longer mandatory in Austrian schools starting on Tuesday, June 2, Education Minister Heinz Faßmann (ÖVP) announced last Saturday.
    • Furthermore, sports and physical education will be permitted at schools, under certain conditions (distance rule, no contact sports etc.).
    • School festivals and smaller events will also be allowed once again.
    • Faßmann pointed out that Austria’s experience with opening schools after Easter showed that children “do not spread the virus” as much as feared.

May 29, 2020:

  • In a press conference today, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) announced a gradual shift to “more personal responsibility, less rules” in dealing with the coronavirus in the next weeks and months. This, said Kurz, is justified by continuously low rates of new infections in Austria. Some of the newly announced next steps will be:
    • Starting on June 15, masks will only be mandatory in three settings:
      • When traveling with public transport.
      • In the context of the healthcare system (e.g. at doctor’s offices, hospitals or pharmacies).
      • And when using a service where close personal contact is unavoidable (e.g. getting a haircut).
    • Masks will not be mandatory anymore in other shops or when going to a restaurant (except for the workers there).
    • Starting on June 15 as well, people will be able to sit on a restaurant table with more than four people – also from different households – and restaurants and bars can stay open until 1 o’clock in the morning (currently 23:00 in the evening).
    • New loosened rules for schools will be announced by Education Minister Heinz Fassmann (ÖVP) this Saturday.

May 28, 2020:

  • Austrian Airlines will take to the air again on June 15. For the beginning, direct flights to ten destinations within or close to Europe will resume. All tickets can be rebooked flexibly and higher hygiene standards (e.g. mandatory masks for travelers, higher frequency of disinfection etc.) apply throughout the check-in process and flight. The following destinations can be reached from Vienna in the first week of the restart (June 15-21):
    • Amsterdam, Athens, Basel, Berlin, Brussels, Bucharest, Dubrovnik, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Geneva, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Larnaka, London, Munich, Paris, Prishtina, Sarajevo, Skopje, Sofia, Stockholm, Stuttgart, Tel Aviv, Thessaloniki, Tirana, Varna und Zurich.
    • In the second week (June 22-28), Belgrade, Graz, Innsbruck, Kiyv, Kosice, Milan, Nice, Prague, Split und Warsaw are to follow.
  • The Hungarian budget airline Wizz Air, for which Vienna Airport is a major hub, has announced that they plan to fly to up to 55 destinations in July. Wizz Air was one of the first airline to resume air travel from Vienna after the coronavirus shutdown.
  • Calculations by the Technical University of Vienna (TU Wien) have shown the impact of the relatively early lockdown in Austria.
    • On March 16, the country shut down most of its public life and citizens massively reduced social interactions (by up to 90%).
    • Had the lockdown occurred seven days later, up to four times more cases of coronavirus would have occurred in Austria at the end of March (40,000 instead of 10,000 in reality), leading also to up to four times more patients needed intensive care (an estimated 1,000 in ICUs instead of the 250 people in intensive care in reality).
    • The researchers thus underline how early actions helped the country get through the crisis without overburdening the healthcare system. They underline that contact tracing and constant testing is now crucial to keep the situation under control.
  • Culture Minister Werner Kogler and the new State Secretary for Culture Andrea Mayer (both Greens) as well as Finance Minister Gernot Blümel (ÖVP) announced a new support fund for artists endowed with €90 million.
    • Up to 15,000 artists will be eligible for payments of up to €1,000, starting in July.
    • The fund will be administered by the Sozialversicherung der Selbstständigen (Social Insurance of the Self-Employed or SVS), which has a database of freelance artists and can thus ensure swift payment.
    • And additional fund of €25 million is supposed to support the film industry.
    • Kogler and Mayer also underlined that they understand past criticism that the government had neglected the cultural scene in the first wave of coronavirus measures.

May 25, 2020:

  • At Vienna’s AKH General Hospital, Europe’s first successful lung transplant for a COVID-19 patient was performed. The 45-year old patient with no pre-existing medical conditions fell ill with the coronavirus eight weeks ago. The disease damaged her lungs so much that doctors said she could not have survived without a transplant. Now, she’s recovering and “doing doing brilliantly” given the circumstances, the doctors at the AKH say.
  • The number of people taking sick leave in Vienna decreased massively year-on-year. This April, 29,000 workers in Vienna took sick leave, compared to 117,000 in the same month last year. Experts say the crisis, fear for one’s job as well as the fear of being suspected of having COVID-19 kept many people from calling in sick. Visits to doctors’ offices also dropped by a quarter, including telemedicine and consulting via phone.
  • New coronavirus infections in Vienna have in recent weeks mostly taken place in known family clusters, announced the city’s bureau of sanitation. “The origins of very few cases remain unresolved,” said the director of the bureau, Ursual Karnthaler.
  • The Austrian government will set up a fund of €1 billion to the country’s municipalities to strengthen the regional economy after the coronavirus slump.
  • Carinthia has essentially halted the spread of the coronavirus. As of today, there are only two people with a known infection, new infections haven’t been recorded for several weeks.

May 24, 2020:

  • Tomorrow, the Maturawoche – week of high school leaving exams – starts in Austria. Due to the coronavirus, there will only be written exams this year and final grades will be a partly based on the grades in the last school year (a novelty).

May 23, 2020:

  • Several cases of coronavirus have emerged in distribution centers of the Austrian Post in Inzersdorf und Hagenbrunn in recent weeks. The City of Vienna has thus started to preemptively test all workers and replace them temporarily with mobilized militiamen. Two soldiers also tested positive for COVID-19. All soldiers will be tested too, now.

May 22, 2020:

  • The budget airline Laudamotion will permanently cease its operations from Vienna on May 29. The subsidiary company of Ryanair struggled to turn a profit already before the coronavirus crisis. Worker councils rejected a new contract with massive wage cuts that would have foreseen basic salaries of €848, even under the minimum social benefits available in Vienna (€917).

May 21, 2020:

  • The government announced its plan to make and present Austria as a safe destination for summer holidays. From the beginning of July, up to 65,000 people shall be tested for COVID-19 every week, with a special focus on workers in hotels and the hospitality industry. The state will cover the costs for the tests and pump another €40 million into advertising for holidays in Austria.

May 20, 2020:

May 19, 2020:

  • The unemployment numbers in Austria have begun to decrease again, they fell by 55,000 in April of this year, to a total of 532,693 unemployed (according to national statistics). Another 1.3 million employees are registered for short-time work (Kurzarbeit), but the extent of the usage of this tool varies (employees can be registered and work from 0 to 100% of their actual hours).

May 18, 2020:

  • Today, 700,000 students in Austria return to school, after a nine-week hiatus due to the corona measures. Many schools have introduced a phased approach to school start, so that a smaller number of children enters the building at any one time. Big classes are split to reduce overall class sizes and a protection for mouth and nose (ideally masks) is required on hallways and on public transport.

May 17, 2020:

  • The City of Vienna published plans for the open-air public pools in the summer. The public pools will reopen on May 29, but the total number of visitors will be capped, with an effective limit of at least 10 square meters of space per guest. Visitors will be encouraged to book their tickets online beforehand, a new pricing scheme (€1 for children, €2 for teenager, €3 for adults for a day pass) should speed up the entrance process.

May 16, 2020:

  • Slovenia, Croatia and Italy have all announced that they want to open their borders to one another and other EU citizens in the coming weeks.

May 15, 2020:

  • Restaurants and bars will reopen today, with new hygiene guidelines. The sector has suffered massively under the lockdown and the closure of borders, with up to 63% of the lost revenue coming in normal times from – now absent – tourists. Tax breaks are planned for July.

May 14, 2020:

  • On May 13, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) visited the village Mittelberg in the Kleinwalsertal in Tyrol. Now, media and the opposition harshly criticize the circumstances of the visit. Their criticism: Nobody was wearing face mask and the government’s distance rules were not at all or only partly respected. The NEOS want to press charges.

May 13, 2020:

  • The Austrian-German border will reopen completely on June 15. Already starting this Friday, May 15, there will only be spot checks on the border. The decision taken jointly by the Austrian and German governments is crucial for Austria’s tourism sector, for which Germans are the largest group of guests after Austrians holidaying at home.
  • The city of Vienna will send vouchers for use in local bars and restaurants to every household. One-person households will get a voucher for €25, two people will get €50 in total. The city will start sending out the vouchers to the 950,000 Viennese households in mid-June.
  • In April 2020, up to 20% more people were traveling with bicycles in Vienna. The federal government has meanwhile confirmed a tenfold increase of the budget for cycle lanes this year.
  • Following heavy criticism regarding the government’s lack of attention to the cultural sector, Health Minister Rudolf Anschober (Greens) now announced “two big steps” for theaters and similar events by May 29. The minister did not further specify what these steps would entail.
  • The government announced a fund of €700 million for NGOs and other caritative funds to cover running costs in these extraordinary times over the next two quarters.

May 12, 2020:

  • The Austrian football Bundesliga has a new kick off date: Training sessions can restart this Friday, the first football matches – in front of TV cameras, but without an audience in stadiums – are likely to kick off two weeks later.
  • As of this May, 550,000 people in Austria are unemployed and another 1.3 million people on short-time work (Kurzarbeit), both historical highs. However, since mid-April the number of unemployed has again begun to fall, driven mainly by the construction industry which uses the good weather to full effect.
  • As most of the Austrian economy and public life is opening up again step by step, the cultural and event sector is still in deep sleep, as mandated by government rules. Artists, creators and organizers now criticized harshly the lack of a coherent plan and insufficient support for the creative industries, while Culture State Secretary Ulrike Lunacek (Greens) insists that a plan is forthcoming.
  • The number of patients in intensive care in Austria due to COVID-19 has fallen to 59, another 205 people are hospitalized due to the coronavirus.

May 11, 2020:

  • The trains of the ÖBB and subway cars, buses and trams of the Wiener Linien are as of today again running on a regular schedule. Mobility is on the rise again, but public transport is still significantly emptier than before corona (on some routes, tehre are up to 80% fewer travelers).
  • The government announced a €500 million support package for restaurants and bars in Austria, acknowledging that the sector was hit particularly hard by the crisis. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz called the Gasthäuserkultur (the tradition of meeting up and eating out at restaurants and bars) “a part of the Austrian soul.”
  • Today at 7:56, the first express train from Romania arrived, bringing 24-hour care workers directly to Austria. The care workers will have to do 24-hour fast PCR COVID-19 test.
  • Vienna’s statistical office, the MA23, reported that up until April 26, “no excess mortality” could be recorded in the city of Vienna. “The data shows that Vienna has come through the crisis very well so far,” says Klemens Himpele, chief statistician of the city.
  • The federal government is weighing an up to tenfold budget increase for the building of cycling paths following the corona crisis.

May 8, 2020:

  • The Ministry of Health published guidelines for guests of restaurants and bars, which will open on May 15.
  • The Ministry of Education published a decree specifying regulations for schools while will re-open over the coming weeks. For example, no more than 18 pupils are permitted per classroom, music lessons will take place without singing and afternoon teaching will be possible for high school students older than 14 years.

May 7, 2020:

  • For the first time since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, less than 100 people are in intensive care in Austrian hospitals (as of today, 97 need an ICU unit). The number of people in Austria actively infected with COVID-19 fell to 1,430, about the same number as in mid-March.
  • Austria’s flagship carrier Austrian Airlines plans to cut 1,100 out of 7,000 jobs by 2023, provided a deal to bail out the airline is still found with the the Austrian government (a support package of €878 million is in the works). AUA mother Lufthansa is currently negotiation with the German government for a similar package.

May 6, 2020:

  • Austria will prolong border controls due to the coronavirus pandemic until May 31 (the previous date of expiry was May 7). During this period, only selected border crossings are open and travelers entering Austria either have to bring a medical certificate proving their negative COVID-19 status or subject themselves to a 14-days quarantine.

May 5, 2020:

  • A case study with random participants conducted by Statistik Austria was published yesterday. Based on the tests of 1,432 randomly selected individuals in Austria, the number of active COVID-19 infections in the week of April 21-24 is estimated to have been no more than 10,823 (0.15% of the population), within a confidence interval of 95%. This is the upper range, meaning that a significantly lower infection rate is highly likely.
  • In Tyrol, a commission of inquiry has been formed to investigate the so-called “Causa Ischgl.” The police also presented a separate 1,000 pages inquiry into the events, based on which the local office of the district attorney will decide whether to press charges.

May 4, 2020:

  • According to a report in The Times of Israel, Austria launched an initiative to adopt joint coronavirus protocols and open up to tourism and trade with each other. Before opening their borders, the 7 countries – all with strong tourism sectors – would establish common guidelines including masks, safe distances and testing. Vienna Airport, for example, has already started to offer 3-hour fast tests to travelers (for €190).
  • Travelers entering Austria from abroad have to enter a 14-day period of self-quarantine, unless they can show a medical certificate not older than 4 days proving their negative status of COVID-19. The test can also be done in Austria during the quarantine, which can be ended earlier if the result is negative.
  • The number of new infections with coronavirus is falling all across Austria, only in Vienna the numbers are still rising, albeit from a low level.
  • Today, students in senior year (approx. 100,000 pupils) return to schools.
  • As of April 2020, more than 570,000 people in Austria were unemployed. That’s an unemployment rate of 12.5% or 5.5 percentage points higher than in February, according to national statistics (internationally comparable numbers coming from Eurostat and the ILO usually show Austria’s unemployment rate up to four percentage points lower).

May 3, 2020:

  • Employees in Austria like teleworking, says a new survey. Seven out of ten employees who have been working at home during the last weeks stated that they would like continue teleworking after the crisis, 60% even said that their productivity at home was higher than at the office. Two thirds think that the pandemic will change society markedly and also two thirds think that these changes will be for the better.
  • Vienna’s kindergartens expect more children in the coming weeks. The share of children attending kindergartens may rise from single digits to 25-40% of the total.

May 2, 2020:

  • Today, May 2, shopping centers, stores larger than 400 m², hair, beauty and massage salons can re-open. Wearing masks is mandatory inside shops and in public buildings, heightened attention to distance rules and hygiene while shopping or in public is strongly advised. Events can again take place with a maximum of 10 people, private gatherings are allowed – social distancing rules apply throughout.
  • The number of active coronavirus cases in Austria is still declining. The four-day average of new infections fell to 0.36%. As of May 1, there are 1,759 active cases in Austria. 13,110 people recovered from the virus and 589 people passed away.
Coronavirus in Austria, May 1, 2020 (c) © 2020 Infogram
Coronavirus in Austria, May 1, 2020 (c) © 2020 Infogram
  • Salzburg’s chief infectiologist Richard Greil cautioned that distance rules during the easing of restrictions are somewhat of an “experiment.” The government has variably advised to keep 1-meter distance or “the size of a baby elephant.” Others advise 2 meters. Greil underlined that the current infection rates (R) in Austria is very low (around 0.3), which led to the political decision of carefully attempting to ease measures.
  • In a home for asylum applicants in Vienna housing 400 people, 15 have tested positive for coronavirus. The home has now been evacuated, the inhabitants are in quarantine.

May 1, 2020:

  • As of today, May 1, the restrictions on movements in Austria do not apply anymore. But several measures still apply: People are called on to meet in small groups only, reduce physical contact and often wash hands. Social distancing (e.g. keeping 1 meter distance from other people in public spaces) is advised, wearing masks in supermarkets, shops and public places is mandatory.
  • The budget for short-time work (Kurzarbeit) was raised to €10 billion by the government. Currently, 1.1 million employees in Austria are registered in the scheme. However, many companies may have also applied as a precaution – the actual working time (and wage subsidy) of those registered can range from 0 to 100%.
  • Zoos like Vienna’s Tiergarten Schönbrunn will re-open on May 15. Visitors are asked to buy tickets and reserve certain time-slots beforehand, wearing masks throughout the visit is mandatory.

For length, clarity and loading times, we have decided to split off the timeline of what happened in March into two separate articles: “The Coronavirus in Austria & Vienna | What Happened in March” & “The Coronavirus in Austria & Vienna | What Happened in April.”

Numbers

As of June 8, 2020, the situation in Austria according to the Ministry of Health is as follows:

People tested: 489,597
– of which in Vienna: 118,882
Daily tests: 3,685

Confirmed cases: 16,868 (+59 cases (+0.4%) since yesterday)
– of which in Vienna: 3,307
Active cases: 357 (+14 cases (+4.1%) since yesterday)
– of which in Vienna: 183

Increase on previous day: +0.18%
– four-day average: +0.21%

Total hospitalized: 69 (-3 cases (-4.2%) since yesterday)
– of which in Vienna: 47
In intensive care: 17 (+/-0 cases (+/-0%) since yesterday)
– of which in Vienna: 10

Recovered: 15,793 (+/-0 cases (+/-0%) since yesterday)
– of which in Vienna: 2,951
Deceased: 672 (+/-0 cases (+/-0%) since yesterday)
– of which in Vienna: 173

The Ministry of Health has also developed a COVID-19 dashboard with details on the coronavirus outbreak in Austria, listing for example affected regions, age groups, gender and status of the cases.

The privately organized coronatracker also provides up-to-date information on the virus in Austria (in German).

Austrian tech & startup media house Trending Topics has also set up a comprehensive tracking board for the coronavirus in Austria (in German).

Resources

The City of Vienna has compiled comprehensive information on questions and answers regarding coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease in English.

The Austrian Ministry of Health has put together FAQs on the coronavirus and also provides material to download on how to protect yourself and others from the disease, also in English.

Furthermore, the ministry will constantly update its German language website with information on the number of people tested and cases of COVID-19 in Austria.

Hotlines

Health advice by telephone: 1450

If you show symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties) or fear that you are ill, stay at home and dial health number 1450 for further procedures (diagnostic clarification).

Coronavirus hotline AGES: +43 0800 555 621

The Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES) answers questions about the coronavirus (general information on transmission, symptoms, prevention) 24 hours a day at +43 0800 555 621.

VKI hotline for travel law questions: +43 0800 201 211

For legal questions concerning trips that have already been booked (e.g. whether a trip can be cancelled free of charge), the experts of the Association for Consumer Information (VKI) provide advice free of charge from Monday to Sunday between 09:00 and 15:00 at +43 0800 201 211.

How to wash your hands, properly

The World Health Organization (WHO) as well as national and international health organizations stress how crucial proper hand-hygiene is to slow the spread of the disease.

Make sure that you and everybody around you clean their hands regularly, properly (20 seconds or more) and with soap – soap actually kills the virus.

Reduce physical contact (instead of handshake do an elbow bunch or Vulcan greeting, for instance) where possible.

We will keep updating this page as new developments unfold. Keep safe, keep informed and live long and prosper 🖖!

Benjamin Wolf
Benjamin studied Journalism, History and International Affairs. After stints with Cafébabel in Paris and Arte in Strasbourg, he is now working as managing editor and COO for Metropole in Vienna. Fields of expertise are politics, economics, culture, and history.Photo: Visual Hub

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