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New ordinance for reopening the economy (trade, services) as of 1 May 2020 is in force

The Federal Minister of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection (BMSGPK) and his team apparently consulted for a long time. A few hours before the access restrictions expired, the COVID-19 relaxation-ordinance was published after all. The new ordinance repeals the two ordinances that restricted access to public areas and the customer area of commercial and service companies 2.

This means that from 1 May 2020 all trade companies and service providers will be able to open up again. There are exceptions for the hospitality industry, accommodation facilities, sports facilities, cultural and leisure facilities. In the following you will find answers to important questions. The focus is on trade.

Which business premises benefit from the reopening?

Trading premises may be reopened

  • with an interior sales area of over 400 m² (larger retail stores)
  • smaller retail shops which are structurally connected to other business premises and are entered via a connecting structure (e.g. common entrance area in shopping centres). These retail shops have not been able to open up to now because they have exceeded the 400 m² limit due to the addition rule (i.e. structurally connected sales areas seen as one overall sales area).

Service providers as well as leisure and sports businesses may also reopen, but only under strict conditions (in the following, these are not described in detail).

Which opening hours apply?

The previous restrictions have been withdrawn. The general opening hours during non-crisis periods will apply.

What additional conditions must be fulfilled?

Employees with customer contact as well as customers must wear a mechanical protective device covering the mouth and nose area (mouth and nose protection mask or e.g. plexiglass protection) as a barrier against droplet infection. This requirement does not apply to children up to the age of six and - now new - to persons who cannot reasonably be expected to wear the protection for health reasons.

A distance of at least one metre must be kept from people who do not live in the same household.

In those areas of the trading premises where the same level of protection can be ensured by any other suitable protective device for spatial separation, the one-metre distance does not have to be observed; the employer and his employees do not have to wear a "mask" in this area either.

For information on customer (area) limitation, see immediately below.

Is there a maximum limit for customers in the store?

In addition to the above-mentioned requirements (obligation to wear a mask, one-metre distance), every trader must take suitable measures to ensure that there are only so many customers in the customer area at the same time that at least 10 m² of the total sales area is available per customer (for 400 m² this would be 40 customers); if the customer area is smaller than 10 m², only one customer may enter the premises at a time.

In the case of structurally connected business premises (e.g. shopping centres, market halls), the customer areas of the own and structurally connected third-party business premises and the areas of the connecting structure must be added together when calculating the permissible number of customers (one customer per 10 m² sales area). Thus, a maximum limit applies to the entire shopping center and to the respective business premises in the shopping center.

Are there also tighter regulations for some trading companies?

Yes, the previously privileged sectors (e.g. pharmacies, food retailers, banks) as well as the businesses that reopened in the first wave from 14 April (e.g. building materials, iron and timber trade, building and garden centres) must also comply with the limit of 10 m² per customer from 1 May. This means that an access control system may have to be established there as well.

This means that trading companies are now generally subject to uniform requirements. The preferential treatment of the privileged sector is no longer applicable. This is understandable from the perspective of the principle of equality. It is regrettable that these tightened restrictions were only published a few hours before coming into force on 1 May 2020.

What applies to the hotel and restaurant industry and accommodation facilities?

The legal situation does not change significantly; the (fundamental) prohibition to enter has been extended.

For what period do the above provisions apply?

The ordinance entered into force at the end of 30 April and will expire at the end of 30 June 2020. Thereafter, it is planned to further ease the restrictions.


1 Ordinance pursuant to Section 2(1) of the COVID 19 Measures Act, Federal Law Gazette II No 98/2020 as amended by Federal Law Gazette II No 166/2020.

2 Ordinance on interim measures to prevent the dissemination of COVID-19, Federal Law Gazette I No 96/2020 as amended by Federal Law Gazette II No 162/2020.


This newsletter merely provides general information and does not constitute legal advice of any kind from Binder Grösswang Rechtsanwälte GmbH. The newsletter cannot replace individual legal consultation. Binder Grösswang Rechtsanwälte GmbH assumes no liability whatsoever for the content and correctness of the newsletter.

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