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Which Austrian regions have been quarantined due coronavirus infections?

Over the past seven days, stark differences in infection rates have emerged between different states in Austria, with several regions put under isolation measures.

A man carrying out checks in Austria
Christof STACHE / AFP

Parts of Tyrol have been completely cut off from the outside world and locked down.

A village in Carinthia has a seven day incidence of almost 1,000. Meanwhile, in Vorarlberg, restaurants have opened and indoor events are allowed again.

What is the national situation?

Austria has opened its shops with distance rules and hairdressers, beauticians and tattoo parlours with a test requirement.

People must keep two metres apart in public places unless they live in the same household. 

In public, inside rooms, an FFP2 mask must also be worn, including on public transport and in cultural institutions such as museums, art halls, libraries and zoos, which are also open. 

Exit restrictions apply from 8pm to 6am. Outside this time a maximum of two households may meet with at most four adults and six children who must be supervised. 

Schools and kindergartens are open with testing and mask requirements.

Coronavirus hot spots

However, in some areas of Austria where there has been a rapid increase in coronavirus cases, further lockdown measures have been taken. As a rule of thumb, once the seven-day-incidence rises above 400 people per 100,000 inhabitants for one week, this should trigger further restrictions. 

Tyrol, which is experiencing an outbreak of the South African variant of the coronavirus, is also subject to special restrictions, including when travelling to Bavaria in Germany. 

So which areas of Austria are seeing a fall in cases, and which regions are seeing an increase which puts them in the danger zone? 

Carinthia

Hermagor in Carinthia is currently locked down, and  people are only allowed to leave the district with a recent negative coronavirus test. A 24-hour stay at home order is also imposed.  Since lockdown measures were imposed the 7-day incidence has dropped from 700 to 266 (as of Wednesday). The seven day incidence will have to drop below 200 for the district to reopen, Health Minister Rudolf Anschober has said. 

The  village of Zlan in the municipality of Stockenboi is to be cordoned off from Sunday onwards. Leaving will only possible with a negative test. The village has around 400 inhabitants and a seven-day incidence of almost 1,000.

Lower Austria

Exit controls requiring a recent negative coronavirus test have been in place in the city of Wiener Neustadt since last week. The seven day incidence was at 515 in this area on Thursday.

However the districts of Neunkirchen (452.8) and Wiener Neustadt-Land (449.5) are not yet considered a high incidence area according to Health Minister Rudolf Anschober’s ordinance, as the high numbers have not been in place for seven days. 

Salzburg 

In St Johann im Pongau in Salzburg you need a recent negative coronavirus test to leave the municipalities of  Bad Hofgastein, Dorfgastein and Bad Gastein. In Tamsweg in Salzburg, a test requirement to leave is in place until 24th March.

Tyrol 

In Tyrol you need a recent negative PCR or antigen coronavirus test to use cable cars to go skiing. Extra tests and mask requirements are in place for old people and nursing homes. The Tivoli and Greifmarkt markets have been suspended in Innsbruck until 27th March.

There are test requirements in place if you want to leave the  Haiming and Roppen municipalities and Arzl im Pitztal municipality in Imst. The same applies to the municipalities of Matrei in East Tyrol and Virgen 

Since 27th February, people have been required to wear an FFP2 mask outdoors in certain public places in the municipalities of Jenbach, Mayrhofen and Schwaz. 

There are also border restrictions in place for people travelling between Tyrol in Austria and Bavaria in Germany.  However, Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Thursday he believed German border controls to Tyrol could end within two weeks, according to the APA agency.

Tyrol was a European hotspot for the South African variant of the coronavirus, but received extra Biontech-Pfizer vaccines from the EU to vaccinate people living in the Schwaz area. The number of active cases of the South African variant has since been reduced from 200 to 60. 

Vienna 

On 19th March stricter measures  involving more testing and stricter quarantine rules were brought in for schools, kindergartens and after-school care groups.

Around 159 teachers and kindergarten teachers fell ill with Covid-19 in Vienna last week, according to ORF Vienna, and the seven-day incidence is highest in the latest AGES figures among 5 to 14-year-olds. The city’s seven day incidence is one of the highest of the federal states in Austria, standing at 276.

Vorarlberg

Vorarlberg, which has one of the lowest seven day incidences in Austria (59.4)  has opened up its restaurants and pubs for people with a recent negative coronavirus tests.

Distance and mask requirements are in place. A maximum of four adults from two households plus a maximum of six minor children may be seated at each table.

Events for up to 100 people can take place indoors and outdoors with testing and mask requirements in place along with other safety measures.

Sports for children and teenagers up to 18 years can take place inside with testing. Outdoors, 20 people up to the age of 18 and three trainers are permitted to train together.

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TOURISM

EXPLAINED: Will Austria ban horse-drawn carriages?

Vienna's Fiaker - the horse-drawn carriages seen across the city's streets for centuries - are popular with tourists, but animal rights advocates say the practice is cruel, particularly as temperatures rise.

EXPLAINED: Will Austria ban horse-drawn carriages?

The image of two horses carrying a carriage full of tourists mesmerised by beautiful Austrian sights is quite a common one, particularly in Vienna.

The Fiaker, which is the Austrian name (borrowed from French) for the set of two horses, plus a carriage and coachman, are quite popular and represent an important part of Viennese history.

The first license for a Fiaker was granted in the capital around 1700. They rose in popularity before the advent of cars in the 1900s.

“They are just as much a part of Vienna as St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the Giant Ferris Wheel: the fiakers”, according to the Vienna Tourist Board.

READ ALSO: One day in Vienna: How to spend 24 hours in the Austrian capital

Now, though, the symbol for the capital has become the target of controversy. For years, animal rights groups have protested against the overworking of the animals, the stressful conditions for the horses on busy Viennese roads and the extreme heat they face in summer. 

What are the main issues raised?

For years now, several animal rights groups have protested against exploiting the animals for touristic purposes.

By Vienna regulations, the horses need to be out of the streets once temperatures reach 35C. Many groups ask for the limit to be at least 30C instead.

Additionally, the temperature base is measured at the stables, in the mostly shaded areas from where the animals leave every morning to work in Vienna’s first district, where the blazing sun and scorching pavements could make temperatures higher by several degrees.

READ ALSO: Why Vienna is a haven for wild animals – and where you can find them

Another issue raised by groups is that the fiaker no longer fits in a busy 21st-century capital – with its busy roads and loud cars. They claim that walking among the many vehicles and tourists of the first district is unnecessarily stressful for the horses.

A traditional Fiaker in the Viennese first district. (photo: Amanda Previdelli / The Local)

What do the fiaker associations say?

Many representatives of the organisations reiterate that the animals are well-cared for and used to the heat.

A spokeswoman for the carriage companies asks for a round table with politicians as debates heat up, ORF reported. The veterinarian Isabella Copar, who works for two Fiaker farms, says there is no basis for the 30C regulation.

“I don’t understand that politicians make a judgment on animal welfare, even though they have no idea about the animals”, she told the broadcaster.

READ ALSO: How to explore the Austrian mountains in the summer like a local

Copar mentions a 2008 study by the Veterinary school of the University of Vienna saying that after nearly 400 measurements on the animals, not a single case of “heat stress” was found.

As for the infamous cases when horses have collapsed in the streets of Vienna during particularly hot days, she states that the collapses are usually due to a horse disease.

It was never possible to establish a connection with the heat. “If this happens in the stable, no one is interested,” the veterinarian said.

What is next?

The latest news in the controversy is a major one. The Health Minister, who is also Animal Protection Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens), has stated he would “welcome” a debate about a Fiaker ban.

“You should think about it, really for animal welfare reasons, whether you should expose a horse to this stress.

According to the minister, there is a question also as to whether the use of the carriages fits in the context of a large city at all. “I think that’s a bit outdated”, he said.

READ ALSO: Austria bans ‘senseless’ killing of chicks with new animal welfare rules

There is a particular tug of war between the City and the Federal Government regarding whose responsibility it is to act on a possible ban or even tighten the rules.

Both authorities are set to talk about the issue in June. They are set to also speak with the Fiaker associations.

Vienna is unlikely to see a total ban as early as that. Still, a 30C temperature limit after which the horses would need to be sent back to stables could be heading to the capital.

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