A done deal! Free corona tests in Austria will be extended until the end of March 2022.
Funding for free corona tests as part of screening programs or in pharmacies is secured by the end of March 2022. Operational tests will only continue until October 31, 2021. The legal basis for this was, among other things, the COVID-19 special-purpose grant law passed by the majority at the National Council on Wednesday. cost reimbursement for states and municipalities for the purchase of protective equipment, telephone health advice, or additional COVID-19 related rescue and ambulance services.
Comprehensive amendments to the Epidemic and COVID-19 Precautions Act were also approved by a majority of votes. This includes, among other things, the restoration of statutory protection provisions related to quarantine arrangements, which can be traced back to a VfGH decision. In addition, mayors are authorized to determine the opening and closing hours of workplaces.
An amendment proposal brought to the agenda and approved at the meeting now stipulates that this can only be done with the approval of the district governor’s office. In addition, resident physicians are now tackling the pandemic more closely as they are allowed to document PCR and antigen tests and print relevant certificates.
Reimbursement of protective equipment costs
Other decisions relate to pandemic-related changes to the COVID-19 Camp Law for the free provision of protective equipment and other necessary medical supplies, as well as the extension of remote prescription, i.e. drug prescription without personal doctor contact, until March 2022. There are also deadlines in the Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities Act and the Medical Devices Act. An SPÖ initiative calling for a ban on the titanium dioxide E 171 dye used as a bleaching agent was supported by all parliamentary groups.
Changes in the COVID-19 special-purpose grant law primarily relate to protective equipment, health advice by phone at 1450 (including infrastructure, recruitment and training measures), reimbursement of costs for barracks hospitals or various hospitals. Medicinal products reimbursed by federal states and municipalities.
This also includes expense allowances for non-full-time support staff, vaccination centers, and additional COVID-19 related services from rescue and ambulance services. These payments will now be extended until the end of March 2022. Arrangements for population-wide corona testing as part of screening programs and reimbursement of costs for COVID-19 testing at public pharmacies will now be in effect until the end of March 2022; The deadline for operational testing is the end of October 2021.
Introduction of special legal protection
One point at the center of the amendments to the Pandemic and COVID-19 Measures Act proposed by the ÖVP and the Greens is the introduction of special legal protection linked to discrimination provisions that need to be adapted based on a finding of the Constitutional Court. According to the constitutional requirements, certain notifications can be challenged in the regional administrative court, thereby standardizing the one-week decision time, provided that the separation continues.
The COVID-19 Precautions Act also specifies when – according to current scientific knowledge – only a minor epidemiological risk can be assumed (vaccination, negative tests, presence of antibodies, surviving infection). It is also possible to distinguish between individual groups of people in order to react more flexibly to current developments.