Today in Austria: A round-up of the latest news on Tuesday

Find out what's going on today in Austria with The Local's short roundup of the news.

Walk in the Prater

Summer weather on Wednesday and Thursday

The next few days will see summer temperatures throughout Austria. Around 23 to 24 degrees is expected in Vienna, Graz and Klagenfurt, and temperatures could reach 25 degrees in the Inntal, Walgau and Salzach Valley. The warmest days will be Wednesday and Thursday.

The warm phase will slowly come to an end on Good Friday, and there could be a few rain showers, in places even with lightning and thunder.

However, in Tyrol,  Carinthia and Styria temperatures above 20 degrees are also forecast, broadcaster ORF’s weather forecast predicts. 

Tougher rules for people travelling to Austria

Tighter rules for people coming into Austria will came into force tomorrow at midnight.

Commuters from all non-EU and EEA countries as well as from the high incidence countries Bulgaria, Estonia, France, Italy, Malta, Poland, Sweden, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Cyprus must show a negative PCR or antigen test no older than 72 hours.

Self-tests may not be used.

Commuters from all other EU and EEA must present a test result on entry form the past seven days or carry out a test within 24 hours.

Regular commuters are also required to register electronically using the “Pre-Travel Clearance” form, broadcaster ORF reports. 

Next step towards EU vaccination passport

Austria and twelve other EU countries – Germany, Denmark, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Slovenia, Croatia, Cyprus, Malta and Bulgaria – have agreed on the development of a “common priority list with clear criteria for the green passport for tourism”.

This list will be sent to the European Commission by Easter, according to the Austrian Tourism Minister Elisabeth Köstinger, according to Austrian press agency APA.

Seven day incidence at 260

Austria’s seven-day incidence, or the number of new infections with the coronavirus in the past seven days per 100,000 inhabitants, is 260, according to the AGES database

The number is highest in Vienna (342.9), followed by Burgenland (303.3). The value is lowest in Vorarlberg (128.2), which is the only federal state below 200.

There are currently 2,227 people in hospital treatment due to the coronavirus, 534 of them in intensive care units.

Johnson & Johnson vaccine to be delivered from 19th April

Johnson & Johnson announced on Monday it will start deliveries of its single-dose vaccine to the EU from 19th April, following the vaccine’s regulatory approval by the EMA on 11th March. 


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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.