The Rules of Austria’s Third Lockdown

Following Christmas, the country will re-enter a one-month lockdown. This time around, a negative test result is the key to freedom.

The federal government has decided to tighten restrictions anew. Between Dec. 26 and Feb. 7, we will enter Austria’s third lockdown and residents must again reduce their social contacts and stay at home.

The government had originally planned to allow people who test negative to be exempted from some of these measures starting on January 18. The opposition parties rejected the respective law in parliament’s upper chamber, which led to the government dropping the plans. Austria’s third lockdown will thus apply for everyone until Feb. 7.

When coming out of lockdown, people will be required to wear FFP2 masks (pictured below and purchasable in local pharmacies or online) and increase keep a distance of 2 meters from others, when running essential errands or visiting shops, restaurants and cultural institutions. According to the government, regular testing will become essential for most activities of daily life.

FFP2 mask/(C) Unsplash/Markus Winkler

With Austria’s third lockdown, the government hopes to bring the seven-day incidence under 100. Only then can the country safely reopen cultural institutions, restaurants, and tourism, says Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.

Here’s an overview of the new rules.

General

  • The current night-time curfew will be extended to the entire day, and a stay-at home order will be imposed. People may only leave there homes for:
    • Work and professional reasons.
    • Buying essentials (ie. food)
    • Helping others. 
    • Mental relaxation and individual physical activity.
  • People may only meet one person from another household.
  • Shops, stores and personal services (ie. hairdressers, nail salons, etc.) must close until Feb. 7. Once reopened, only those with a negative test result and with a FFP2 mask may enter – the specifics of these rules are still under discussion.
    • Only grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, post offices, agrarian and animal food stores, electronic shops, gas stations, dry cleaning, and bike and car repair shops will remain open.
    • However, unlike previously, other stores may remain open for pick-up.
  • Restaurants and hotels will remain shut. Takeaway and delivery is still permitted.
    • These may reopen in mid-February. Details will follow.
  • Cultural institutions like museums must close. These, including exhibits, libraries, and book stores will reopen on Feb. 8. Visitors must wear a FFP2 mask.

Mass Tests

  • On the weekend of January 16-17, a second round of free mass tests was planned. After the government dropped these plans, it agreed with all federal states to set up permanent free testing infrastructure for all those willing to get tested (as Vienna has been doing for several months now).
  • Starting Feb. 8, schools in Vienna and Lower Austria will again resume in-person instruction. Starting Feb. 15, all schools in federal states will reopen.
  • Once shops, restaurants and cultural institutions reopen, waiters, hairdressers, aestheticians, healthcare workers, public transportation employees, and other essential workers will have to get tested once a week. Alternatively, they will be required to wear a FFP2 mask at all times.
  • Mass tests will take place in cities and towns with a high number of infections.
    • If necessary, regional lockdown may also be imposed.

New Years

  • New Years parties are strictly prohibited.
  • Likewise, the use of pyrotechnic articles of category F2, including rockets, firecrackers or lightning firecrackers is prohibited.
  • No public fireworks will take place on Dec. 31.

Sport

  • Alpine skiing, with the exception of ski touring, will be permitted starting Dec. 24. FFP2 masks must be worn in cable cars and ski lifts.
  • Ice skating rinks and cross country ski trails will remain open.
  • Physical activity is still allowed outdoors, but it is unclear when indoor sports will be allowed again.

Schools

  • The measures for the schools will be similar to those implemented during the second lockdown.
  • Following the Christmas holidays (which end on Jan. 6), students will switch to distance learning until Feb. 8/15.
    • Once schools reopen, students will not be required to provide a negative test result to return to the physical classroom.
  • Kindergartens and schools (for students up to age 14) will continue to offer childcare if need be.
  • High school students will be required to come in for short periods of in-person instruction or to take exams.
  • For high school seniors, the Matura exams will take place as planned on May 20, but certain topics for the oral exam (starting June 7) may be cut. Presenting the diploma thesis is voluntary. Like last year, the year grade will be counted towards the final result.
Amina Frassl
Amina is Metropole's online content manager. She writes about news and news analysis and is currently completing her studies in journalism and politics at NYU.

Numbers

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

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.