Austria announces stricter rules for Dutch travelers without Covid boosters
Residents of the Netherlands who want to travel to Austria before they have had a Covid-19 booster vaccine shot will have to deal with stricter entry rules when they get there. The Austrian authorities put the Netherlands and three other countries on its list of high-risk countries with a coronavirus variant of concern because of the expected outbreak of the Omicron variant. This means that travelers who were fully vaccinated, but who have not yet had a booster, must quarantine for ten days after arriving in Austria, just like people who are unvaccinated.
The decision is a setback for many people hoping to take part in a winter sports holiday. Although they can end their quarantine early if they test negative for coronavirus, that is only possible after five days. Anyone who has already had a booster and can show a negative PCR test result can avoid the quarantine altogether. Austrian media had initially reported that the measures will come into effect next Friday, but the new rules will actually begin on December 25.
Austrian media already reported on Tuesday that the measure was likely for the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Norway and Denmark, causing irritation within the Austrian ruling party, ÖVP. Holidaymakers are expected to stay away due to the tightened quarantine rules. Critics called it another blow to Austrian entrepreneurs.
The Dutch Ski Association was very disappointed by Austria's decision. "A lot of people have been looking forward to finally doing something fun for the first time in a long while. And it looked good in recent weeks in terms of lockdowns and coronavirus policy in the winter sports areas. But now this is coming in again. It's a waste," a spokesperson said. The association's online forum is full of "furious" and "desperate" commenters, he said. "This downer came so close to departure that people really don't know what to do."
The Dutch Ski Association thinks that many tens of thousands of Dutch people will be affected by the Austrian decision. "A million Dutch people go on winter sports trips every year. Austria is by far the most popular country, and attracts 60 to 65 percent of all Dutch winter sports enthusiasts," said the spokesperson. "However, more people go during the spring break than during the Christmas break." That's how they came up with their estimate that tens of thousands of vacations were ruined by Austria's move.
Austria also took other measures to combat the impending wave of Omicron infections. Among them, the hospitality industry must close one hour earlier, by 10 p.m., starting the day after Christmas. This also applies during New Year's Eve.
Reporting by ANP