A high number of new infections, a seven-day incidence well above 2000, the Corona traffic light is on red nationwide - and yet, on Saturday (March 5), Austria lifted nearly all rules to contain the coronavirus. The rationale given by the federal government and the Government-wide Crisis Coordination Office (GECKO) is clear: despite the high Corona numbers, the situation in intensive care units is currently stable. But not all those responsible in the Alpine republic agree with the relaxations.
As of this Saturday, there are no longer any access restrictions in Austria in the catering and hotel sectors, as well as in non-public sports venues and cultural and leisure facilities. The G-rules have been completely abolished in these areas. In the workplace, too, the previously applicable 3G verification requirement has been lifted. However, 3G still applies in care facilities such as nursing homes and clinics - visitors must therefore either be vaccinated, recovered or tested.
The entry rules were already adjusted two weeks ago. There are now further relaxations for events. In the future, there will no longer be an upper limit for the number of visitors. In addition, there is no longer a Corona curfew in Austria. This is particularly pleasing for club and disco owners. Night catering in Austria had been closed for two years due to Corona. During the pandemic, the neighboring country lost two health ministers. Most recently, Wolfgang Mückstein (Greens) threw in the towel - because of overwork.
The only remaining Corona rule is the FFP2 mask requirement. It is still intended for "business premises that inevitably have to be visited by vulnerable groups of people". This refers to all areas that were also open during the lockdowns in Austria. These include supermarkets, banks and pharmacies.
A mask requirement also continues to apply in public transport and cabs. In cable cars, on excursion boats and coaches, and in numerous public places, however, it has been lifted, as reported by ORF. A point that many experts in the Alpine republic criticize.
Vienna's mayor Michael Ludwig (SPÖ) also voiced criticism. The capital does not make all opening steps and goes a special way. "The pandemic is not over. Yesterday, we recorded the second highest number of new infections in Austria since the pandemic began more than two years ago. Nevertheless, the federal government is sticking to the opening steps it announced and the elimination of almost all CoV protection measures," Ludwig said Thursday (March 3), according to ORF.
"I view this with concern because hospital bed occupancy in normal wards continues to be very high and staff are fully stretched," the Vienna mayor added to his criticism. In the Austrian capital, the 2G rule continues to apply in gastronomy and night catering. Access therefore only for vaccinated and recovered. In addition, Vienna continues to maintain the mask requirement throughout the retail sector.
In Germany, the seven-day incidence on Saturday (March 5) was 1220.8 - about half that of Austria. Massive Corona relaxations also went into effect in this country on Friday (March 4). The 3G rule now applies nationwide in the restaurant and hotel industry. Clubs and discos are allowed to reopen with the 2G-plus rule. Finally, as of March 20, all "more far-reaching" Corona protections are to be dropped, according to the German government's plans. Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) had recently dampened optimism about an end to the pandemic again.