News item

Consultative Committee decides to end of Easter break

The Federal Government and the Governments of the Federated Entities discussed the corona situation today in the Consultative Committee.

The Consultative Committee notes that the pressure on healthcare services remains relatively high, particularly in the intensive care units.  Over a third of all hospitalized corona patients are in intensive care. This is a lot more than a year ago or than last fall. The face of the pandemic has changed with the advance of new virus variants, which are more contagious and more aggressive.

However, the Committee also notes that a number of key values are evolving favourably:

  • a decrease in the average number of daily Covid-19 infections;
  • an incipient decline in the average number of hospital admissions;
  • the reproduction number is below 1.

The Committee also notes a further acceleration of the vaccination campaign. By 19 April, 60% of those over 65 is expected to have received their first vaccination, by 26 April, this will be over 70%, by the end of April this will be over 80%. We also expect that by the end of May more than 80% of the 18-65 age group with underlying conditions will have received their first jab. Science shows that a high level of immunity is already achieved two to three weeks after the first vaccination.

Based on this overall picture, the Consultative Committee made the following decisions:

1. Reopening of schools

After the end of the Easter holiday on 19 April, classes will resume, according to the schedule that applied prior to the Easter break. This means:

  • Pre-school education, primary education, special secondary education, the first two years of secondary education and the 'learning and working' system: full-time classroom attendance;
  • Second and third grades of high school: 50 percent classroom attendance;
  • Higher Education: one day per week of physical on-campus presence.

Exams may be organised with physical attendance.

If infection rates continue to be favourable, and after an evaluation by the Ministers of Education to be presented to the Consultative Committee, full-time in-classroom secondary education can resume beginning 3 May.

2. Non-essential travel: strict system of testing and quarantine

The travel ban on non-essential travel within the European Union expires from 19 April. For travel outside the European Union, European rules continue to apply. However, all non-essential travel is still advised against.

Upon return, a strict system of mandatory testing and quarantine applies. Based on the Passenger Location Form, the police will identify those who refuse to be tested upon return. Those who do not comply with the testing rules could face a corona fine of 250 EUR.

3. End of the Easter break for shops and non-medical contact professions

On 26 April, the Easter break will end. This means that people will be allowed meet up outside together in groups of no more than 10.

Retailers will also be allowed to receive customers without an appointment from this date on. Shopping alone is no longer required, but only one other member of the household can accompany you.

Non-medical contact professions - including hairdressers and beauticians - may reopen under stricter protocols.

At the same time, some thirty pilot and test projects are being launched to establish, practical and science-based conditions on how the various economic sectors can safely start or prevent their closures in the future. 

4. Seven out of ten over-65s are vaccinated and protected: outdoor package

On 8 May, when virtually all people over 65 will have been vaccinated and protected, a broad outdoor package will go into effect.

Activities in an organized context (e.g. sports clubs or associations) can be organised outdoors with up to 25 people and for all ages, but without an audience and without an overnight stay. Children up to and including 12 years of age can also participate in indoors activities with up to 10 people

Furthermore, the following will also be possible outside:

  • Restaurants and cafes: outdoor terraces
  • Events (including receptions and banquets), cultural performances and religious services for up to 50 people.
  • Amusement parks
  • Professional flea markets and second hand markets

The curfew will be abolished and replaced by a ban on gatherings: between midnight and 5:00 a.m. only gatherings of up to three people or with members of one's own household (people living under the same roof) are allowed in public spaces

5. Two close contacts at home

As of 8 May, a household may receive two persons at the same time, provided that these persons also belong to the same household. Children up to and including 12 years of age are not included.

6. Almost all over-65s and vulnerable people are vaccinated and protected: broader perspective

A new and important milestone will be reached when almost all people over 65 and vulnerable people with underlying conditions are vaccinated and protected. We expect a high level of immunity in that group in the first half of June.

If the numbers, especially the occupancy rate in the ICU, allow it, the outdoor plan will be expanded further and there will also be room for more indoor activities, provided that there is a sustainable decrease in the pressure on ICUs at that time, to ensure high-quality care for covid and non-covid patients is guaranteed.

7. Importance of vaccination

The Consultative Committee notes that in some parts of the country, too few people are showing up to their vaccine appointments. Vaccination is the only structural way out of the pandemic. The vaccines are effective and safe. Possible side effects are very rare and mild, especially when compared to the symptoms of a COVID infection that are thousands of times more frequent and deadly. So protect the lives of you and your loved ones by getting vaccinated.