“Easter Lockdown” in Vienna & Lower Austria Expired on May 3

With rising case numbers, intensive care beds in the eastern states are filling fast. A strict “cooling-down” is meant to bring this under control.

Initial hopes of opening Schanigärten (outdoor seating) were dashed in recent days, as it became clear that the situation on intensive care wards would allow no such thing. Even though cases across Austria have been rising more slowly than last fall, hospitals and intensive care units have filled up quickly as of late – particularly in eastern Austria.

That is why the governors of Vienna and Lower Austria have decided to enter an “Easter Lockdown” from April 1-6, which was subsequently prolonged until May 2.

The following measures apply:

“Easter Lockdown”

From April 1 – May 2:

  • All shops, stores and services in the region will close.
    • This also applies to museums and zoos.
    • Groceries, post offices, pharmacies and banks can still open.
  • A round-the-clock curfew will again be imposed.
    • People will be allowed to leave their house only for one of four reasons:
      1. Going to work.
      2. Helping others.
      3. Fulfilling basic needs (food, medical attention, CoV testing).
      4. For physical activity or a walk for mental health.
  • There is no exception this time for Easter celebrations.
    • People will not be allowed to meet another household over the Easter weekend in the region.
    • Traveling to other regions in Austria will only be allowed for one person (e.g. visiting parents or children in another federal state).

Schools & Students

  • During the Easter lockdown, schools in the region will switch back to distance teaching in the school weeks of April 6-18.
    • The Easter break starts this coming Monday, March 29.
    • The following week, distance teaching will take place for all 456,000 pupils in Vienna, Lower Austria, and the Burgenland.
  • Regular PCR testing at schools is planned for when in-person instructions will resume.
    • At the moment, regular tests are conducted with a particularly easy form of rapid antigen tests that the children use themselves – but those are less sensitive than PCR tests.

General Rules & Measures

  • FFP 2 masks will now be mandatory in all indoor rooms.
    • That includes office buildings, shops, public transport, public buildings.
  • Testing for firms and businesses will be intensified.
    • PCR and rapid antigen testing will be rolled out for even more companies.
    • Testing at least once a week will become mandatory for firms with office staff.
  • Commuters across the border in the region will now have to show a negative coronavirus test not older than 72 hours.
    • Previously, registered commuters could show a negative test that is up to one week old.
  • Starting on April 7, “entry tests” will likely become mandatory for entering any shop or store.
    • The requirement to show a negative coronavirus test is already in force for services, it is likely to be extended to shops and stores in general.

Mutations Changed the Situation

Daily infection numbers in Vienna have tripled in the last four weeks. But more worryingly, the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units in Vienna exceeded the record from last November. Experts assume that this is due to the newly dominant coronavirus variant B.1.1.7 (first discovered in the UK), which is thought to be more infectious and lead to quicker and longer hospitalizations especially for middle-aged people (40-60y).

That means that even with lower case numbers overall due to massively ramped-up testing, more people need intensive medical attention earlier. The ongoing vaccination campaign has thus so far succeeded at reducing mortality particularly among the elderly. But with vaccines only slowly reaching those aged 65+, large parts of the population are still susceptible to the virus.

Viennese Mayor Michael Ludwig (SPÖ) showed himself open to “even stricter measures” should that become necessary over the next month. He spoke of another “6-8 tough weeks ahead” for all of us, where easing steps and reopening would likely fall flat as vaccines are being rolled out to the broader population.

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

Current Status

We compiled for you a detailed guide on traveling to Austria during the pandemic.

If you live in Vienna, make sure to register for getting a vaccine against COVID-19 under impfservice.wien. If you already registered and it is the turn for your age or risk group, here you can book your vaccination appointment.

Vienna and Lower Austria have re-opened shops and services “close to the body” on May 3. 

Austria plans to open up the economy and society on May 19, with those vaccinated, tested negative or recently infected getting access to many places with a “green pass.” 

Here’s an overview of where you can get tested for COVID-19 in Vienna and how the free, weekly PCR “gargle” tests at home work. 

If everything is a bit much for you or you experience domestic violence of any kind, here is our mental health resource article.

Numbers

For current coronavirus numbers, check the website of Ministry of Health and the AGES dashboard.

The Austrian Ministry of Health also published daily vaccination statistics and a preview of scheduled deliveries.

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 telephone1450

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.