Less than two weeks after lifting mask mandates on March 5, the Austrian government announced that they will be reinstituting mask and vaccine requirements, as well as additional COVID-19 restrictions starting on March 23. The government cited rising case rates in making the decision.
On March 5, Austria had an average of around 29,000 new reported Covid-19 cases per day over the previous seven days. By March 18, that number had ballooned to over 45,000, according to Forbes. Pointing to the case rates, Austrian Health Minister Johannes Rauch announced that the alpine nation would be reinstituting its indoor mask mandate.
Austrians will be required to wear masks in order to gain entry to enter hotels, sporting events and dozens of other venues. Affected venues will have the choice between instituting a mask mandate, or the reintroduction of a vaccine passport system. Restaurants and bars will be subjected to more stringent guidelines and will only have the option to check for proof of vaccination.
The mask mandate will also apply to indoor gatherings of 25 people or more. As for schools, the government plans to provide an update on their plans after consulting with the Education Ministry.
Earlier this month, Austria scrapped legislation that would have mandated COVID-19 vaccination among its adult population. Starting in mid-March, Austrian police officers would have checked for vaccination during traffic stops and other interactions with citizens. Austrians would have been required to show proof of vaccination or be subjected to hefty fines. It is unclear whether Austria, which was one of the only nations to mandate vaccination against COVID-19, plans on reintroducing the policy.
The nation’s decision to reintroduce its COVID restrictions is not unexpected. The government warned of the possibility when the mandates were suspended just two weeks ago. “I don’t think I need a crystal ball to tell you that today isn’t the last chapter we will write regarding the vaccination mandate,” Minister Karoline Edstadler said at the time.