6. Measures in other sectors
6.1 Measures in other sectors
Many MEASURES IN OTHER SECTORS beyond the immediate scope of the health system are being taken to prevent further spread of the virus. This section contains information on many of these areas, including border and travel restrictions and economic and fiscal measures, among others.
Art, culture and sport
On April 17, it was announced, that from May 1, museums as well as other “places in the artistic-cultural field” will be re-opened. At the same time, it was decided to open federal museums from July. Libraries will as well re-open in July with reading rooms still to be closed.
Some gradual relaxation of measures for popular sports will apply from May 1, 2020. Outdoor sports have priority over indoor sports, and individual sports over team sports or martial arts. The general premise "as much freedom as possible, (only) as many restrictions as necessary" applies. It is recommended to ensure sufficient distance when practising sports. Running and cycling should be done diagonally offset and moving in a runner’s or cyclist’s slipstream should be avoided when being outside. The minimum distance when running should be about 10 meters, when cycling about 20 meters, for people walking fast a distance of 4 to 5 metres is recommended. Risk sports should be practised with restraint. It will be allowed to enter outdoor sports facilities for training purposes for sports such as athletics, tennis, golf, equestrian sports and even gliding from 1 May onwards. In high-performance sports, the ban on entering sports facilities will be lifted earlier, and trainings are allowed in groups of 5 to 6 people. During training, minimum distances of 2 meters must be maintained. There must be at least 20 square metres per person. There are special regulations for professional soccer teams.
As of mid-May religious services, outdoor sports, museums, libraries, and archives reopen and also the Bundesliga is allowed to restart. Following strict guidelines on distancing and other precautions remain mandatory. The re-opening process will last through June and may be accelerated if infection rates remain low.
Since 15 May museums may reopen. Per visitor 10 square metres need to be available. Visitors need to wear mouth nose protection and keep min. 1 metre distance from each other. Personnel may be exempted from wearing a mouth nose protection e.g. when sitting at a cashier with a protective shield.
On May 29, gyms, thermal baths, open-air swimming pools, hotels, camping sites and cinemas re-opened. Also, cultural events are allowed again. The specific rules are as follows:
- Cultural events and entertainment: 1 metre distance needs to be kept. the Audience has to wear mouth-nose-protection for indoor events, and for outdoor events when audience is not being assigned a seat. A mouth nose protection has to be worn always when entering and leaving. Events (incl. cinemas) with up to 100 people are allowed, incl. weddings or funerals. People will be seated diagonally in the audience, unless they live in the same household or belong to a group of max. four people. Buffets are allowed (e.g. during breaks). Exceptions apply to these regulations for people on stage (e.g. orchestra, actors) or necessary for carrying out the event (e.g. referees, players). Rehearsals of musicians are possible. In cinemas no extra seat needs to be kept free if one metre distance can be kept (measured from middle of one seat to the middle of the next seat).
- Restaurants: The same rules (max. four people at a table, 1 metre distance; mouth-nose protection when entering and leaving) apply for restaurants, but are eased from mid June onwards (see below).
- Sports: In gyms a two metre distance needs to be kept. Sports events are allowed under the same conditions as cultural events and entertainment. When doing sports outside, 2 metre distance needs to be kept, sporadic contacts of less than 2 metres are allowed (e.g. tennis double, swimming in parallel). Football and basketball are still not allowed, except for professional teams (where ease of restrictions were introduced mid May).
- Hotels / lodging: A 1 metre distance needs to be kept from other guests (except those living in the same household). A mouth-nose protection needs to be worn at the reception and in the entrance area. In community sleeping areas (e.g. hostels, mountain huts) a 1.5 metre distance needs to be kept.
- Swimming pools (outdoor): A maximum number of visitors applies. In open air swimming pools a distance of 10 square metres needs to be kept outside the water. In the entrance/exit area, and cashiers a distance of one metre needs to be kept, with respective marks on the floor to be installed by the managers. Indoors (e.g. in sanitary areas) a mouth nose protection needs to be worn. In public changing rooms a distance of at least one metre needs to be kept, as well as when showering. Respective information about these rules and general hygiene rules is to be visibly placed. Entertainment areas (e.g. water slides) are to be marked with 1 metre distance areas. The maximum number in the water for each pool needs to be made visible, with a rule of 1-2 metres distance per swimmer (ca. 6 square metres per person). Runways to enter the water are to be kept free, as well as stairs. Between beds a distance of 1 metre is to be kept unless people live in the same household. Online ticketing sales and pre-sales should help reduce queues in the entrance area.
- Swimming pools (indoor): An area of 10 square metres per person outside the water, and 6 square metres in the water per person applies (i.e. the same as for outdoor swimmingpools) to calculate the maximum number of visitors allowed. In saunas (or similar) an area of 10 square metres per person needs to be made possible, and a minimum of 1 metre distance except for people living in the same household. The maximum number of people allowed needs to be announced clearly outside the sauna. In whirlpools a minimum distance of 1 metre applies.
As of July 3, artists can apply for a financial aid (EUR 1,000 per month for 6 month; EUR 6,000 at most). The artist financing fund with an endowment of EUR 90 billion should be used as bridge financing for all artists without income in the last months.
Schools and kindergarten
On 24 April, further steps how schools will reopen were announced. It was already known that as of May 4, high school graduates would return to school and final apprenticeship examinations would be held. Two weeks later, on May 18, schools will be opened for all 6 to 14 year olds. Another two weeks later, on June 3, school thus starts for all students over 15 years. The following accompanying measures are planned: classes will be divided into two groups of equal size. The groups are taught either from Monday - Wednesday or Thursday - Friday, with alternating days each week. On days without lessons, there will be home exercises. There will be supervision but pupils should stay at home on those days, if possible. The subjects music and sports are not taught until summer, otherwise timetables remain unchanged. There should be no written examinations, but pupils can do oral examinations to improve grades voluntarily. Otherwise, the semester grades as well as the examination marks until shutdown are the basis for final grades. Teaching and learning support for school holidays - so-called summer schools - has been announced without further details. A handbook with hygiene measures and rules of conduct for schools has already been published.
To allow students to not take up their place at school, parents can de-register them from school, e.g. in the case of existing health risk factors in the household, or due to the child's psychological situation. Teachers who are concerned to return to school (e.g. due to health-related risk factors), need a medical confirmation about their state of health. Teachers who belong to the risk group due to their age need to remain available for online teaching.
Kindergartens fall within the competence of the federal states. As of May 18, they are required to re-admit all children previously registered with them, without any further justification required on behalf of parents or other caregivers. Compulsory attendance in the last kindergarten year was re-introduced on May 15. This means that preschool children must attend kindergarten again. However, like students (see above) they can be excused by their parents, the protection against infection is sufficient as reason for absence.
As of May 30, the use of mouth-nose protection in schools is no longer required. From 15 June onwards, music lessons and sports lessons are re-introduced in schools (outdoors and not for more several classes together). Only sports are allowed, where sufficient distance may be kept.
Concept for return to regular school and childcare
In the school year 2020/21 no separation of children into smaller groups is planned currently, i.e. classes start as planned, unless epidemiological situation worsens to alert level red (lockdown). For children aged 15 to 19 years, a separation might be possible earlier i.e. if the epidemiological situation moves to alert level orange.
The following measures have been announced:
- General hygiene measures are reinforced (keeping distance, washing hands, coughing etiquette)
- Marks in the entrance areas and corridors, separate breaks to avoid mingling of different groups
- Letting air into the class rooms every 20 minutes
- Use of mouth nose protection is obligatory outside the class room for both teachers and students, inside the school building
- Concepts per school on how to avoid mingling during breaks should be developed in each school
-Children with at least one of the following (COVID-19) symptoms have to stay at home, if there is not alternative plausible explanation: cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, catarrh, rapid loss of sense of smell
-Teachers who belong to a risk group receive a FFP2 mask
-Children who belong to a risk group or live with someone who belongs to a risk group, or feel mentally stressed may stay away from school against confirmation by a medical doctor. They have to learn from home. Teachers who are mentally stressed may stay in home office (against confirmation from a medical doctor) but have to be available for distance learning activities.
Schools should prepare by defining a crisis team (e.g. the director, schools’ doctors or schools’ social workers or similar) with clearly defined responsibilities, including an IT coordinator. They are responsible to prepare the school for distance learning, if necessary, have contact lists of all students, and prepare the hygiene concept, or a concept for separating classes should it become necessary (age group 15 to 19 years).
Distance learning will be harmonised with several tools being made available by the Ministry of Education. A digital single entry point platform “Digital School” is installed, a Massive Open Online Course for teachers has been launched, an online platform (eduthek) will be made available, learning apps will be certified. In the mid-term financial investments in IT infrastructure and availability of digital devices for children and teachers by 2021/22 are planned. (See 8 points plan: https://www.bmbwf.gv.at/Themen/schule/zrp/dibi.html).
A comprehensive screening concept for schools is being developed and the use of gargling tests is currently being discussed. (See e.g.: https://orf.at/stories/3177802/)
In kindergartens no general use of masks is obligatory (neither for kindergarten teachers nor for children).
As of May 16, Germany, Austria and Switzerland lifted the travel restrictions that currently apply to unmarried couples in cross-border relationships and people with relatives or a second home in a neighbouring country. Previously only couples who were married, in registered partnerships or who had children together were allowed to travel to see each other under restrictions imposed in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. Restrictions are also lifted for those with a property, need to tend to allotments, or to maintain agricultural/hunting land/woodland and those caring for animals. People who want to cross the borders must complete a self-declaration form.
Borders with Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary will fully reopen from June 15, with intermittent partial openings and restrictions by that date.
From 15 June onwards, quarantine is no longer required when entering Austria from countries that have a respective agreement with Austria. As of June 15, Austria also opens its borders to 31 European countries, except to Sweden, Portugal and the United Kingdom (UK).
Due to increasing COVID-19 infection rates in the Western Balkans, the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued travel warnings for the region. As of July 1, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia were classified by the highest danger level of 6.
As of July 9, Romania, Bulgaria and Moldova were classified by the highest danger level of 6. The Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued travel warnings for these countries. New entry requirements from highest-risk countries are being drafted: if Austrian residents or people with Austrian residency enter from highest-risk countries, they have to show a negative certificate of a PCR-test and they are instructed to quarantine themselves for 14 days.
Until 31st July planes from 18 countries had not been allowed to land in Austria. According to the regulation (in place at the time of writing on 18th August 2020), states or areas with an increased COVID-19 risk are: Egypt, Albania, Bangladesh, Belarus (Belarus), Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Croatia, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kosovo, Mexico , Moldova, Montenegro, Nigeria, North Macedonia, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Sweden, Senegal, Serbia, South Africa, Spain (main land), Turkey, Ukraine, United States and Hubei Province (China).
On July 27, Austria introduced stricter entry requirements. Austrians, EU and EEA citizens and Swiss nationals with their main residence in Austria who come from a risk area that does not have a stable COVID-19 situation must carry a health certificate (with a negative PCR test confirmed by a medical doctor in English or German language) or undergo a PCR test within 48 hours of entry. If Austrians, EU and EEA citizens or Swiss nationals arrive from a country with a stable Covid 19 situation (e.g. Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Norway), there is free entry. The traveller must have only stayed in any of the following countries in the past ten days: Andorra, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Croatia, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, San Marino, Switzerland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain (islands), Czech Republic, Hungary, Vatican, United Kingdom and Cyprus.
There are no restrictions on state visits and for special family reasons - such as the entry of life partners - or on occasions such as weddings and baptisms. The mere passage through Austria without a stopover remains possible without restrictions.
For third-country nationals not coming from the EU, the EEA or Switzerland entry is generally prohibited, unless they come from the Schengen area and can submit a negative PCR test that is not older than 72 hours (confirmed by a medical doctor in English or German language). If testing abroad was not possible, the PCR test must be carried out in Austria within 48 hours at one’s own expense. Until a negative test result is available, self-monitored (home) quarantine must be started. In addition, even with a negative test third-country nationals have to go through a ten-day (home) quarantine after entering the country. A confirmation of accommodation must be submitted for this; the costs are to be borne privately. A "free" from the quarantine is not possible in this case, the Ministry of Health emphasizes. Exceptions to the entry ban for third-country nationals apply to nursing staff, seasonal workers and diplomats. If these workers do not come from one of the countries classified as safe, they must also have a negative PCR test followed by a 10-day home quarantine. Quarantine ends when a PCR test performed during the test turns out to be negative.
For commuters, an entry with a health certificate is possible. This certificate also has to confirm a negative PCR test that occurred no more than three days ago upon entry. A self-monitored quarantine is not necessary.
From 24 August the Balearic islands (Mallorca, Ibiza, Menorca and Formentera) are included in the list of states or areas with an increased COVID-19 risk.
Some economic support measures were announced on June 15, but no details have become known yet. Cash payments for unemployed persons (in total amounting to EUR 200 million) were announced. A one-off benefit of EUR 450 Euro for unemployed people is planned (for three months retrospectively, i.e. EUR 150 per month). In addition, families receive a cash handout of EUR 360 per child. Further financial support is also planned for the agricultural sector.
Some tax-related measures have been announced mid-June as part of a larger tax reform for which all details are not yet known. Negative income taxes are raised (with EUR 100 per year for those affected), while income tax rates will be lowered.
From July 1 onwards, the VAT is reduced to 5% in restaurants, bars and for cultural events until the end of the year to help these sectors to cope with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
On June 23, the Austrian parliament enacted the municipality investment act (Kommunalinvestitionsgesetz). EUR 1,000 billion from the crisis management fund are earmarked for local investment projects. Municipalities will receive this financial support for investment projects as compensation for the shortfall of revenues due to lower tax revenues.
As of July 1, a value added tax reduction for products in selected industries (catering, hotel, creative, cultural and media industries) came into force. The tax rate amounts to 5 % (instead of 10% or 13%) for drinks and meals, tickets for theatre and cinemas, artwork, books and newspapers, and for accommodations in hotels.
Mobility and transport
At the very beginning of the outbreak end of January, the Ministry of Health advised that all non-essential travels to China should be postponed. A few days later the national airline Austrian Airlines (AUA) announced the suspension of flights to China. Temperature checks for all passengers on direct flights from China were implemented on February 5. From March 6 onwards, all passengers from South Korea, Iran and Northern Italy needed a medical certificate to enter Austria. Ten days later borders were closed for people from high-risk areas (e.g. Italy).
On March 16, local authorities placed five regions in Tyrol under mandatory quarantine. Tyrol is a federal state in western Austrian with many ski resorts. It was the first state to report cases of the new coronavirus in Austria and became the region with the highest number of cases. On March 19, all communities in Tyrol were placed under complete quarantine as well as a few regions in Vorarlberg and Salzburg (as of March 18). The restrictions on movement are much stricter than the national lockdown introduced days earlier: people are not allowed to enter or leave quarantine regions except for meeting of basic needs or for work. Since April 7, the quarantine was lifted and since then Tyrol has been subject to the same regulations as the rest of Austria concerning freedom of movement.
On March 17, all citizens abroad were asked to return to Austria. As of this date, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has organised different return flights for Austrians. Incoming nationals were urged to stay in home-quarantine for 14 days. Airports closed for domestic flights and most international flights were cancelled. Freight flights still operate.
Following the COVID-19-Act, strict controls take place at all borders. Asylum applications are not accepted any more except with enclosed medical certificates. Only Austrian citizens are allowed to enter the country (where they are obliged to home-quarantine for 14 days). Exceptions apply only for passing through the country without any stops, working traffic and freight traffic as well as for emergency vehicles.
On March 17, all military exercises were suspended. Part of the armed forces are asked to provide support in the response to the COVID-19 crisis. The periods of service for current members of the basic military service and the country’s civil service have been prolonged for three months respectively. Former civil servants have been asked to re-join the civil service on a voluntary basis.
In total EUR 38 billion (as of May 20, 2020at date: April 7, 2020) have been put in reserve to keep the economy in a stable situation. including EUR 4 billion for the health care system, long-term care, short-time work, and to compensate self-employed and family businesses for losses related to the pandemic. Additionally, EUR 10 billion was earmarked for the deferral of personal and corporate income taxes (for 2020), social security contributions and VAT payments (until end-September 2020). Special help-packages for small and medium-sized businesses as well as employees are being launched. For employees, an innovative short time work model has been introduced. Under the model, employees receive a replacement rate of about 80% to 90% of their regular salary, primarily funded by the federal state. Parents may request up to three weeks of leave during which a third of their salary is paid by the state, while the rest is paid by the employer. Funding for short-term work was increased from EUR 3 to EUR 5 billion on April 13, to EUR 10 billion on April 30, and again to EUR 12 billion on May 19 while the time frame for the submission of applications was extended.
Since 20 April, a financial support scheme (Härtefallfonds administered by the Austrian Economic Chambers) is in place for the following types of enterprises (supplementing a scheme which had been in place since mid-March): one-person-businesses; small companies (with less than 10 full time equivalent employees and less than EUR 2 million turnover or total assets); freelancers (e.g. artists, journalists, psychotherapists); professions not pertaining to a sector regulated by industrial law (e.g. certain health professions like physiotherapists). Specific support measures have been announced also for start-up enterprises.
Since 15 April, families residing in Austria with at least one child entitled to the children’s allowance receive a benefit from a special fund (Corona-Familienhärteausgleichsfonds). The period of entitlement for children’s allowance is extended by six months. The measure has been criticized in failing to address the financial difficulties of those families most in need of support: parents who were already unemployed before the COVID-19 crisis, people with an income below the threshold of EUR 460.66 (who do not pay neither social insurance contributions nor income tax), and one-parent families where the other parent (not living in the same household) lost their job during the COVID-19 crisis.
In detail, the conditions to receive support from this fund targeted at families in need are as follows: For employed persons, at least one parent living in the same household, and who was in employment on 28 February 2020, must have lost their employment due to the COVID-19 crisis. For self-employed, at least one parent living in the same household must face financial difficulties due to the crisis and must be eligible for the financial support scheme for enterprises (Härtefallfonds) administered by the Austrian Economic Chambers. Household (equivalised) income may not exceed a certain threshold (e.g. EUR 1,600 net income for a single parent with one child; EUR 2,400 net income for a couple with one child).
https://www.socialeurope.eu/austrian-short-time-work-model-a-labour-market-policy-for-the-many-not-the-few (accessed on April 7th 2020).