HomeTravelAustria lockdown: What do the new rules mean for travellers?

Austria lockdown: What do the new rules mean for travellers?

Following a nationwide lockdown sparked by a spike in new Covid cases, Austria has released vaccinated residents and visitors from the tighter measures.

The lockdown began on Monday 22 November for all, and ended on 12 December for vaccinated people only. Unvaccinated people in Austria remain locked down.

The majority of theatres, museums and other cultural and entertainment venues reopened on Sunday 12 December, with shops following on Monday 13.

Unvaccinated people are currently unable to leave their homes or accommodation except for a handful of reasons, such as essential shopping, accessing medical care or taking exercise.

There had been an earlier lockdown for unvaccinated people only, but the latest lockdown applied to vaccinated citizens too, following record case numbers of coronavirus and Austria suffering from having one of the lowest vaccination levels in Western Europe.

“We don’t want a fifth wave,” said Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg at the time, adding that vaccination would become a legal requirement from 1 February 2022.

But what do the new rules mean for travellers? Here’s what we know so far.

Can Brits travel to Austria?

Yes. The Foreign Office has updated its advice to show that both vaccinated and unvaccinated Brits can travel to Austria.

But each group has different rules for entry documents and isolation on arrival, including a sizable quarantine period for unjabbed visitors.

What are the different rules?

For vaccinated travellers:

If you provide proof of vaccination, you do not have to self-isolate or register upon entry to Austria. Austria will accept the UK’s NHS Covid Pass vaccination record or proof of recovery. If you are travelling with a printed PDF proof of vaccination status, it must date from after 1 November to ensure that the certificate can be scanned successfully.

Austria is one of a handful of countries that has introduced an expiration date for vaccine passports. “Your final vaccine dose must have been administered no more than 270 days before arrival in Austria,” says the Foreign Office advice.

If you received a booster more than 120 days after being fully immunised, this must not have been more than 270 days before arrival.

Once these documents are provided, vaccinated travellers do not have to quarantine on arrival.

For unvaccinated travellers:

In order to enter, travellers who aren’t fully vaccinated must present a negative PCR test or proof of recovery from Covid, and must then self-isolate for 10 days on arrival.

For proof of a negative Covid test, it must be a PCR test and results must be no older than 72 hours.

For proof of recovery, travellers must show evidence of recovery during the past 180 days or evidence of neutralising antibodies no more than 90 days old.

Children up to the age of 12 do not have to provide a test result if travelling under the supervision of an adult. If the accompanying adult has to self-isolate, the child must self-isolate too. The child can then leave self-isolation at the same time as the adult. If travelling unattended, the same requirements apply as for adults.

Children aged 12-18 must self-isolate and register on arrival, unless they or the adult travelling with them are exempt from self-isolation, for example through vaccination.

Are there restrictions in place once there?

The Austria.info portal says: “After the end of the current lockdown, the 2G-rule (proof of full vaccination/past infection) will be in effect again in Austria, as well as FFP2 mask requirements in many areas.”

This means that, even when lockdown lifts, unvaccinated people will still be barred from visiting restaurants, hairdressers, cinemas, Christmas Markets, bars, restaurants, nightclubs, theatres and hotels.

FFP2 face masks – the European equivalent to N95 respirator masks – are compulsory on public transport and in taxis, plus in shops, banks, bakeries, cable cars, museums, libraries, post offices, pharmacies and doctors’ offices.

Can I cancel my holiday to Austria?

If you’re due to holiday in Austria, your cancellation rights will depend on what you’ve booked. If you’ve purchased a package holiday, you’re protected by the 2018 Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations; it’s likely your provider will allow you to shift dates or claim a full refund.

If you’ve booked separate elements, things get more complex. Whether you can get a refund from the airline will depend on whether the flight you’re due to take is cancelled. If it still runs, the carrier is not obliged to refund you. However, many airlines have introduced more flexible rebooking policies during the pandemic, so you will be likely be offered a voucher or the option to change your dates instead. Likewise, if you contact your accommodation provider, they may be willing to shift your booking.

Also check what’s covered by your travel insurance – depending on your policy terms, you may be able to claim money back through this.

What are the rules for returning to the UK?

As of late November, all arrivals to the UK must provide a negative result from a pre-departure test (PCR or antigen) taken on the day of departure or within the two days beforehand. This is regardless of vaccination status.

They must also book a “day two” test on arrival in the UK or within the two days after, which must be a PCR test, and fill in the UK’s passenger locator form within the 48 hours before arrival.

Vaccinated arrivals must now self-isolate between getting home or to their accommodation and receiving a negative result from their day two test.

Unvaccinated or partly vaccinated arrivals must also self-isolate for 10 days, and book a further “day eight” PCR test. They also have the option of paying extra for a “day five” or test-to-release test which could release them from quarantine slightly earlier.

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