Austria has announced a new national lockdown that will begin on November 22 and that will last for three weeks, during which time leisure travel to Austria will be off limits.
“Travel to Austria for touristic purposes will not be possible during this time,” the country’s official travel portal stated, noting that the new travel restrictions will be in place until at least December 13.
When the lockdown takes effect, hotels, restaurants, Christmas markets, tourist attractions, and most stores will close, and cultural events will be canceled. People will be able to leave their homes only for certain reasons, including buying groceries, going to the doctor, or exercising.
Earlier this month, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg indicated a full lockdown would not be needed and initiatlly imposed lockdown restrictions only on those not vaccinated. The new national lockdown applies to all citizens and residents, whether they are vaccinated or not.
Wolfgang Mueckstein, the country’s health minister, said that kindergartens and schools would remain open for those who needed them, but all parents were asked to keep their children at home if possible.
How long will Austria’s national lockdown last?
After 10 days, the lockdown’s effects will be assessed. If virus cases have not gone down sufficiently, it can be extended to a maximum of 20 days. In addition, booster shots are now available to all vaccinated people starting four months after their second dose. Just under 66 percent of Austria’s 8.9 million are fully vaccinated, according to government figures.
Once the lockdown is over, Austria will once again be requiring proof of vaccination or of recovery from COVID-19 for entry into hotels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, gyms, cinemas, theaters, Christmas markets, ski resorts, and for personal services such as salons. Children under the age of 12 are exempt from the rule. Masks are also mandatory in many places throughout the country.
Austria’s new lockdown is its fourth since the pandemic began and comes as the country has struggled without success to stop spiraling case numbers. On Friday, the country reported 15,809 new infections, an all-time high.
The situation is especially dire in the regions of Salzburg and Upper Austria, which have been particularly hard hit by the rising case numbers. In Salzburg, for example, the seven-day rate of new infections is nearly twice the national average. Hospitals in both states have warned that their ICUs are reaching capacity, and in Salzburg they have begun discussing potentially only taking the worst cases.
Mueckstein said many factors contributed to the current situation, including Austria’s lower-than-expected vaccination rate and the seasonal impact of the virus.
Austria’s COVID-related travel restrictions
After the lockdown is lifted and leisure travel is permitted again, Austria will revert to the international travel rules that were in place prior to the lockdown. Quarantine-free travel from the United States to Austria will only be permitted for fully vaccinated travelers who present a CDC-issued vaccination certificate indicating they received their final dose no more than 270 days prior to travel or have recovered from COVID-19 in the past 180 days. COVID booster doses “extend the validity of vaccination status for an additional 360 days starting on the day of receipt of the booster dose,” according to the Austrian Embassy in Washington.
During non-lockdown times, unvaccinated travelers from the United States can still enter Austria but must pre-register, present a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival (a PCR from within 72 hours of travel, or an antigen from within 48 hours of travel), and must quarantine for 10 days.
After the lockdown, children 17 and under will be able to enter Austria without needing to quarantine if accompanied by fully vaccinated or recovered adults, but those who are ages 12 to 17 will need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test, of past infection, or being vaccinated.
This story was originally published on November 15, 2021, and has been updated to include current information. Associated Press contributed reporting.