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Austria: Government Issues Several Regulations to Contain Spread of Coronavirus

(Mar. 12, 2020) On February 28 and March 6, 9, and 10, 2020, respectively, the Austrian government adopted several regulations and a decree that aim to prevent or contain the spread of the novel coronavirus in Austria. The measures include authorizations to

  • require individuals traveling to Austria to undergo screening for the coronavirus and provide medical certificates attesting they are free of the disease,
  • restrict travel from certain countries by train and air to Austria,
  • reintroduce border controls at the border with Italy, and
  • prohibit large gatherings of people.

The measures, which are based on authorizations contained in the Epidemics Act 1950, entered into force immediately.

As of March 12, 2020, 5,869 people have been tested in Austria, with 302 positive cases. One individual has died and four people have recovered.

Content of the Measures

The decree of March 10, 2020 instructs local health authorities to issue regulations on the basis of section 15 of the Epidemics Act 1950 that prohibit all large gatherings of people in Austria. The limits for gatherings are 500 people or more outside or 100 people or more inside. The prohibition includes, in particular, gatherings in companies, schools, universities, daycares, and nursing homes, as well as those held for religious purposes or at tourist establishments and sites. Exempt are gatherings involving general representative bodies, bodies of local authorities, public administration, public security, the military, rescue organizations and firefighters, public international law obligations, company-related work, staff meetings, and people taking public transportation. Gatherings at grocery stores, restaurants, and similar establishments are also exempt.

With regard to travel from Italy, all travel by train and air to Austria is prohibited. Freight transport is exempt. In addition, Austria has reintroduced border controls at its border with Italy. Schengen area member states are allowed to temporarily reintroduce border controls at their internal borders in the event that a serious threat to public policy or internal security has been established. (Schengen Border Code ยงย 25.)

In order to enter Austria from Italy, travelers must present a medical certificate in either German, English, or Italian that shows they have tested negative for the virus SARS-CoV-2. The certificate cannot be older than four days. Anyone who cannot present such a medical certificate is to be refused entry. Austrian citizens and people permanently residing in Austria are exempt from these requirements if they agree in writing to self-quarantine for 14 days. Travelers trying to enter or transit through Austria from other countries must agree to a medical screening if so instructed by the local health agency. The medical screening consists of collecting information on places visited and contacts with people infected with COVID-19, as well as taking the body temperature.

Furthermore, in addition to Italy, travel by air from China, Korea, and Iran is prohibited.

Travelers who have been present in one of those countries in the last 14 days also must present a medical certificate at the border showing they have tested negative for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The certificate cannot be older than four days. Upon request of the Federal Ministry for Social Affairs, Health, Care, and Consumer Protection, airlines are required to inform local health authorities if they have transported passengers to Austria who have been present in one of these countries in the last 14 days. If one of these passengers subsequently tests positive for the novel coronavirus, the airlines are required to submit the complete passenger list without undue delay.

In addition, the novel coronavirus was added to the list of diseases in section 20 of the Epidemics Act 1950, which allows closing or limiting access to certain businesses in which there is a particular risk that the disease will be spread. Lastly, persons who are infected or who are suspected of being infected with COVID-19 are prohibited from using public transportation, vessels, and domestic flights.