On November 21, 2021, the Austrian government adopted the 5th COVID-19 Emergency Measures Regulation (5. COVID-19-Notmaßnahmenverordnung, 5. COVID-19-NotMV) to prevent the collapse of the health care system in Austria due to the unprecedented rapid increase in COVID-19 cases and the worsening availability of beds in hospital and intensive care units. (5. COVID-19-NotMV § 1; Legal Explanation at 2.) The Main Committee of the National Council (lower house of parliament) approved the regulation the same day. The regulation prohibits people from leaving their home except in enumerated circumstances and makes FFP2 face masks mandatory in most situations. Workplaces where physical contact is unavoidable are subject to the 3G (geimpft, genesen, getestet) rule, meaning they may be entered only by employees and employers who can prove that they are either vaccinated, have recovered from COVID-19, or have had a negative test . (§ 8.) Schools, daycares, and universities remain open subject to special safety rules. (§ 18, para. 1, nos. 1, 2; § 18, para. 2.) The regulation will terminate automatically on December 1, 2021.
The regulation is based on authorizations contained in the COVID-19 Measures Act (COVID-19-Maßnahmengesetz, COVID-19-MG).
In addition, the government announced that starting February 1, 2022, a general COVID-19 vaccine mandate will apply in Austria. Legal experts generally agree that a vaccine mandate would be constitutional. However, the details of such a vaccine mandate, in particular exceptions and enforcement, must still be determined.
Content of the 5th COVID-19 Emergency Measures Regulation
Under the new restrictions, people are prohibited from leaving their home, except to:
- Avert immediate danger to life, limb, or property.
- Care for or support vulnerable people or exercise family duties and rights.
- Meet basic needs of daily life, such as contact with close family, medical appointments, shopping for basic goods, religious practice, and pet care.
- Fulfill work responsibilities, if necessary.
- Spend time outdoors alone, with members from the same household, or with close family members for physical recreation and mental recovery.
- Go to administrative or court hearings that cannot be delayed.
- Enter certain customer service areas.
- Enter certain areas in nursing homes or housing facilities for the disabled for a maximum of two visitors per person a day subject to the 2G rule (vaccinated or recovered) and proof of a negative test.
- Participate in specified gatherings, such as funerals or protests. (§ 3.)
In addition, FFP2 masks must be worn at all times by people six years and older in indoor public places, on public transportation, in waiting areas for public transportation, in airports, and when carpooling with non-household members. (5. COVID-19-NotMV §§ 4–6.)
Telework is strongly encouraged, if possible. FFP2 masks are mandatory at work if physical contact is unavoidable or if no other protective measures, such as protective partitions, are in place. Workplaces where physical contact is unavoidable are subject to the 3G rule. (§ 8.)
Services that require close contact, such as hair styling, are prohibited. Other services, such as veterinary services, are allowed only if the person using the service is either vaccinated or has recovered from COVID-19 (2G rule). (§ 7.)
The regulation makes various exceptions for pregnant women. (§ 18.)
COVID-19 Vaccination and Infection Numbers in AustriaAs of November 21, 2021, 78.87% of the eligible Austrian population had been vaccinated at least once, whereas 74.62% had been fully vaccinated. As of November 22, 2021, there were 176,756 active COVID-19 cases, 11,645 individuals had died, and 879,454 people had recovered.