The Austrian government announced the next steps to come out of the partial lockdown. The situation is complicated, with infection numbers still high and rising. The 7-day-incidence on March 1 stood at 161 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants, double the number of neighboring Germany.
Thus, after consultations with experts, the government announced that the opening will take place in several steps.
- First, the federal state of Vorarlberg will be a sort of “model region.”
- With a 7-day-incidence of 73.3 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants, Austria’s westernmost federal state has currently the best numbers in the country.
- That compares also well with neighboring Germany, which has a 7-day-incidence of 65.8 for the whole country, but still enacts much stricter measures.
- In the middle of March, restaurants, bars, associations, sports clubs and cultural organizations will be allowed to resume activity under certain restrictions.
- Second, all across Austria, sports for school children and teenagers will again be allowed starting on March 15.
- Children and teenagers have to get regularly tested to take part in team sports.
- At schools, these tests will be provided in the form of free “nose swab” tests.
- In the future, these tests will take place three times a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday).
- Third, any further opening steps for the rest of the country will have to wait until March 27.
- One week before Easter, the government aims to permit restaurants with outdoor seating (Schanigärten) to reopen under certain conditions.
- Guests will have to register and present a negative coronavirus test when visiting a restaurant.
- A cautious reopening for cultural institutions, clubs and associations is possible – the model region of Vorarlberg (see above) will be instructive for this.
- Districts (Bezirke) with a 7-day-incidence of more than 400 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants will in the future be temporarily isolated.
- The role model for this are recent measures in Tyrol to contain the South African variant (R.1.351) – so far, apparently with success (the number of people infected with the variant fell by half in the last weeks).
- Inhabitants of such affected regions will be quarantined and only be allowed to cross the district borders with a negative coronavirus test.
- Currently, three Austrian districts would be affected by these new rules: Hermagor (Carinthia), St. Johann im Pongau (Salzburg), Wiener Neustadt (Lower Austria).
Further measures announced are:
- Obligatory FFP2 masks at work and in offices.
- Self-tests at home will be encouraged, the five free test kits per person available at pharmacies since this week are a first step.
- Regular testing at schools, workplaces and at free testing sites across the country.
- By Easter (April 4), around 1 million people in the country should have received at least the first dose of the vaccine – including the elderly and vulnerable groups.
- Currently, between 2 and 2.5 million coronavirus tests are being conducted every week in Austria. Experts say that helps reducing the spread by up to 40%.
The government aims for a maximum of 700 new infections a day and a reproduction number (R) of under 1 in the medium term.
Currently, new infections stand at around 2,000 new cases per day. R stands at around 1.11..