Coronavirus infections are at record levels not only in Germany but also in Austria. Currently (as of March 23), the neighboring German country is registering over 50,000 positive tests per day. In terms of population, this is almost twice as many new infections as there are currently in Germany.
The Austrian Federal Minister of Health Johannes Rauch (Greens) therefore announced last week that he wanted to reintroduce the FFP2 mask requirement indoors as of today (March 23). However, a corresponding ordinance is still awaited.
Actually, the regulation should have been published yesterday and come into force today. As the Austrian press uniformly reports, the procedure is now postponed by one day. The new rules are then to apply only from tomorrow.
It has now become known that the regulation will be significantly more differentiated than previously assumed. There will be a choice between mandatory FFP2 masks and the 3G model. In concrete terms, this means that every pub, theater, cinema or hairdressing salon in Austria could in future decide for itself whether guests and customers have to wear FFP2 masks indoors, or whether proof of vaccination, convalescence or testing is checked at the entrance and the mask requirement is thus dropped indoors.
The proposal seems tricky because very soon there will be only a limited number of free antigen tests per person in Austria. As reported by the Austrian daily Kurier, only five antigen tests and five PCR tests per month will be free for each citizen from April 1. According to online portal oe24.at, operators from gastro to hotel industry criticize the strong restriction of free tests with regard to the choice FFP2 or 3G.
Tourism Minister Elisabeth Köstinger (ÖVP) insisted to oe24.at on the practicality of the new measures but did not provide any further details. According to oe24.at, however, the restrictions should not be too strict. "If we look at other countries in the EU, the measures have also been largely abolished," Köstinger said.
On March 5, Austria had largely lifted its corona regulations. Since then, there was no longer a 3G detection requirement. The curfew was also dropped and night catering was opened, which in some cases led to tumultuous scenes outside Austrian discotheques. The FFP2 mask requirement now only existed in certain indoor areas, for example in hospitals, public transport or supermarkets.
On March 9, the Austrian federal government had also temporarily suspended compulsory vaccination, which had come into force only a month earlier. Although according to a report by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Health, general compulsory vaccination to ensure a high vaccination coverage rate makes sense in principle, the immediate implementation does not currently appear necessary from a legal perspective. The situation is to be reassessed in June at the latest.
Image by Fernando Zhiminaicela