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Austria is introducing measures similar to those in Vienna

Austria is tightening Covid measures in the face of a fourth wave

Austria is tightening Covid measures in the face of a fourth wave

Yesterday, the country saw the highest number of new infections since the start of the pandemic

Yesterday, the Federal Government in Austria introduced stricter Covid measures to fight the recent explosion of new infections. The new cases reached 8,178 on Monday, which is a national all-time high and a signal that the fourth wave of the pandemic is in full swing.

Authorities have decided to move away from the previous 3-G rule to a more restrictive 2-G rule. This means that only vaccinated people and those who have recovered will count as having a green certificate in most cases.

The 3-G system refers to the Covid-safe certificates issued in Germany and Austria. The Gs stand for the German words geimpft (vaccinated), genesen (recovered) and getestet (tested).

The fourth wave

Despite a relatively high number of new infections, the fourth wave of the pandemic looks quite manageable in Austria. The country has a vaccination rate of around 67%, so despite more than 8,000 new cases, hospitalisations and ICU patients are still at manageable levels.

Currently, there are around 1,000 people hospitalised with COVID-19, a major improvement compared to the third wave in April, which saw just under 2,000 hospitalised patients in peak months. Death rates tell a similar story, as the average weekly death-toll in Austria currently sits at 21 people per day, while in April that number was 32 people.

Restrictions for the unvaccinated

The new 2-G rules will apply to services and situations where close contact with a lot of people is required. Visitors to so-called ‘body-services’ - hairdressers or massage therapists for instance - will have to be either vaccinated or recovered from the disease. The same rules apply to cinemas, theatres and events with more than 25 people and visitations to nursing homes. Customers in stores will be required to wear a FFP2 mask.

The 2-G rules will not apply to students in schools and in the workplace. Employees in body-services will be able to go to work with a test. The most important new development is that self-tests are no longer considered valid.

Antigen tests must be performed in a certified testing site or pharmacy. The same goes for PCR tests and gargle tests, though gargle tests can be performed at home if they are later analysed by a proper laboratory.

Upper Austria, however, is going in a more restrictive direction, mandating a 2.5-G rule for the workplace, akin to measures in Vienna. 2.5 essentially means that antigen tests are not valid, so people need to be vaccinated, recovered or have a PCR test. Notably, federal-state authorities have issued a transition period until 22 November.

Who is considered vaccinated and recovered?

People who have had their second dose of the vaccine less than nine months ago are considered vaccinated. After nine months, they will have to take a booster shot. This cannot be said for people with the Jonson & Jonson vaccine, which was originally designed as a one dose vaccine. They have to be re-vaccinated starting from 2 January.

Anyone who has recovered from COVID-19 in the last six months is considered ‘recovered’ and has a valid 2-G pass. Evidence of antibodies in blood samples is no longer considered as someone who is recovered. However, local authorities allow people with antibodies to take a single dose of the Biontech/Pfizer or Moderna vaccine to get a certificate.

This measure is mainly aimed at seasonal workers who have been vaccinated with the Sputnik V vaccine in their home countries.

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