It’s a done deal! Free crown tests in Austria will be extended until the end of March 2022.
Funding of free corona tests as part of screening programs or in public pharmacies is secured until the end of March 2022. Operational tests should also be continued, but only until 31 October, 2021. The legal basis for this was, inter alia, the special-purpose grant law COVID-19 passed by a majority in the National Council on Wednesday, whereby the reimbursement of expenses for states and municipalities for the purchase of protective equipment, for the operation of health advice by telephone or for additional services related to COVID-19 of rescue and ambulance services.
Extensive changes to the Epidemic Measures Act and COVID-19 were also passed by a majority of votes. This includes, among other things, repairing the legal protection provisions with regard to quarantine regulations, which can be traced back to a VfGH decision. In addition, mayors are authorized to set the opening and closing times of the business premises.
A proposed amendment that was introduced and approved during the meeting now stipulates that this can only be done with the approval of the district administrative authority. In addition, resident physicians are more closely involved in the fight against the pandemic, as they are now also allowed to document PCR and antigen tests and to print the relevant certificates.
Reimbursement of costs for protective equipment
Further resolutions concern pandemic-related changes in the COVID-19 Field Act for the free supply of protective equipment and other necessary medical supplies as well as the extension of the prescription remotely, ie the prescription of medication without contact with the personal physician, until March 2022. In addition, there are deadlines in the Hospitals and Health Act as well as in the Medical Devices Act. An SPÖ initiative was supported by all parliamentary groups, calling for a ban on E 171 titanium dioxide paint, which is used as a whitening agent.
Changes to the special purpose grant law COVID-19 concern primarily the reimbursement of costs for protective equipment, for telephone health advice on the number 1450 (including infrastructure, recruitment measures and training), for so-called neighborhood hospitals or for various medical products that federal states and municipalities are compensated for.
This also includes cost allowances for non-full-time support staff, for vaccination centers and for additional services related to COVID-19 by rescue and ambulance services. These fees will now be extended until the end of March 2022. Regulations for the reimbursement of costs for population-wide crown tests as part of screening programs and for COVID-19 tests in pharmacies public services will now also run until the end of March 2022; The deadline for operational tests is the end of October 2021.
Introduction of special legal protection
A key point in the amendments to the Epidemic Measures Act and COVID-19 proposed by the ÖVP and the Greens is the introduction of special legal protection in relation to the segregation provisions, which had to be adapted on the basis of finding by the Constitutional Court. In accordance with constitutional requirements, certain notices may be challenged in the regional administrative court, where a one-week decision period is standardized, as long as the separation is still in force.
The COVID-19 Measures Act also specifies when – according to current scientific knowledge – only a small epidemiological risk can be assumed (vaccination, negative testing, presence of antibodies, surviving infection). In order to react more flexibly to current developments, it is also possible to distinguish between individual groups of people.