Travellers from Norway without Covid booster face Austrian quarantine

Norway was on Wednesday added to Austria's virus variant list, increasing the level of restrictions on entry to the Alpine country.

A security guards check for vaccination passes of visitors arriving at the Christmas Market in front of Vienna's city hall in Vienna, Austria
A security guards check for vaccination passes of visitors arriving at the Christmas Market in front of Vienna's city hall in Vienna, Austria. Photo by Joe Klamar/ AFP.

Along with the UK, Denmark and the Netherlands, Norway was placed on the virus variant list, called Virusvariantgebiete in German, meaning entry to Austria is generally prohibited.

The change, which will come into effect on December 25th, was announced by Austrian authorities after a Covid summit on Wednesday, potentially sending Christmas travel plans into disarray.

Austrian, EU/EEA and Swiss citizens, people who share a household with them, and other people travelling for essential reasons, can still enter Austria from Norway and the other affected countries but need to fill out a pre-travel clearance form and enter a ten-day quarantine on arrival.

This quarantine can be ended after five days at the earliest with a negative PCR test result, with the day of arrival being counted as ‘day zero’.

People who are allowed to enter can avoid the quarantine only if they have received a booster vaccination and also show a negative PCR test on arrival. Neither a PCR test nor a booster shot alone is sufficient to avoid quarantine.

Everyone entering Austria needs to provide proof of full vaccination or recovery. This still applies for the virus variant countries.

The rules for children remain unchanged, so children under 12 can enter without these proofs and should follow the same rules as the adult accompanying them.

For non-EU citizens travelling for non-essential purposes, which would include for example many Brits hoping to visit family in Austria over the holiday season as well as ski tourists, entry will generally not be possible. 

Being listed as a virus variant country can also mean that travel options are reduced and many flights cancelled, so that even for people still allowed to enter Austria, this would become more difficult in practice.

READ ALSO: Increased sick leave forces Nordic airline SAS to cancel flights

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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”