The handling of isolation of suspected cases, positive SARS-CoV-2 tested persons and contacts in companies is handled differently in each case. This article is intended to provide an overview of when to isolate and on how to continue operations.
A key element in the containment of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic is the correct procedure for companies in the event of suspected cases, positive SARS-CoV-2 tests and contact persons within the company. The legal basis is provided by the Epidemic Act 1950 (Epidemiegesetz, EpG), the COVID-19 Measures Act (Federal Law Gazette I No. 12/2020) and the respective ordinances – currently the COVID-19 Opening Regulation (Federal Law Gazette II No. 214/2021).
Handling suspected cases
If a COVID-19 disease is suspected in an employee during work, the person must be isolated immediately in a suitable room and the company doctor, a registered doctor or the specialist staff must be informed by telephone on 1450. If isolation is not possible, the person must leave the workplace wearing an FFP2 mask and contact a doctor by telephone or the health hotline 1450. Contact with the person suspected of being infected must be avoided at all costs.
The family doctor/health authority shall arrange for testing. If the suspicion is confirmed, the health authority shall – if deemed necessary – carry out contact tracing to determine the source of infection.
Persons tested positive for SARS-CoV2
If a staff member has tested positive for the SARS-CoV2 virus through screening, the staff member shall follow the instructions of the authorities. The person tested positive shall make a list of those employees with whom he or she has had contact for more than 15 minutes and less than two meters distance in the last 48 hours.
If the employee tested positive is still on the premises, he/she must immediately leave the company wearing an FFP2 mask and go into officially ordered home quarantine.
If the employee concerned had contact with other employees, they are to be treated as contact persons as follows.
According to the guideline of the Ministry of Social Affairs, contact persons are considered suspected contagious persons in a strict sense. These are persons with contact to a confirmed SARS-CoV-2 case during the period of contagiousness. Contagiousness generally begins 48 hours before the onset of illness or 48 hours before to 14 days after sample collection for asymptomatic cases.
If the symptoms are severe or persistent, the infectious period may last longer, depending on the case.
Categorization of contact persons
With regard to contact persons, the authorities distinguish between two categories. Category I contacts are persons who have been in the same room with a COVID-19 case at a distance of less than two meters for at least 15 minutes. Category I also includes persons who have had face-to-face contact with a COVID-19 case in an enclosed space or outdoors for 15 minutes or more at a distance of up to two meters.
Classification as a Category I contact person can be avoided by wearing an FFP2 mask by both sides if neither the minimum distance of two meters nor contact duration of less than 15 minutes can be maintained. The installation of a separating device can also prevent classification as a Category 1 contact person.
Category II contacts include people who have had only fleeting contact with a COVID-19 case. Persons who have stayed in the same room without closer contact and without talking to the suspected case or the person who tested positive are classified as a Category II contact person.
Category I contact persons are sent into home quarantine for 14 days by means of a notification of isolation from the authorities. The health authority contacts these persons directly and – after verifying the information provided by the infected person – initiates a notification of isolation. The isolation can be terminated prematurely at the earliest 10 days after the last infectious contact if a negative antigen test or a negative PCR test is available.
Continued payment of remuneration and loss of earnings
If an employee is in official quarantine – as a person who has tested positive or as a contact person I – the employer must continue to pay remuneration in full until the quarantine has ended and the employee can return to work. However, the employer may apply for reimbursement of the remuneration paid within three months of the end of the quarantine.
If self-employed and employed persons suffer a loss of earnings as a result of an officially ordered quarantine due to a COVID-19 infection, they are entitled to compensation for the loss of earnings for the period of quarantine in accordance with Sec. 32 of the Epidemic Act 1950.
However, the obligation to continue to pay remuneration does not apply to Category II contact persons if, for example, the health authority issues a recommendation to avoid contact. If the employer has granted the person concerned paid time off from work, the employer is not entitled to reimbursement from the health authority.
 Corona im Betrieb – Infos zum Coronavirus (wien.gv.at) Stand: 23.03.2021