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

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

Screens projecting hygiene measures to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic can be seen outside the city hall in Vienna (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)
Screens projecting hygiene measures to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic can be seen outside the city hall in Vienna (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Austrian Chancellor says he will not resign

Public prosecutors are investigating Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz for allegedly making false statements during the parliamentary inquiry into the Ibiza scandal.

The Constitutional Court VfGH has ordered Kurz to hand over additional email evidence to the inquiry. The Chancellor has given an interview to the ZiB2 programme in which he denies the charges and says “Of course I will not resign”. 

READ MORE: Austria’s chancellor facing investigation over false statement to MPs

Fast economic recovery predicted for Austria by European Commission

 The European Commission is projecting a fast post-pandemic economic recovery in Austria, with 3.4 percent growth expected in 2021 and 4.3 percent for 2022, Der Standard newspaper reports. The Austrian recovery is driven by exports and a recovery of domestic consumption, although the recovery of tourism is more difficult to predict, the newspaper says.

Climate proofing needed for construction sector, unions claim

Trade and business unions from the Austrian construction sector are calling for a large-scale, €140 billion climate-proofing project for housing and public buildings, to avoid fines for exceeding CO2 targets, Die Presse newspaper reports. 

Testing strategies for May 19th opening vary across Austria

The different states of Austria are coming up with ideas to allow people to carry out tests before accessing hotels, restaurants, sport and events when Austria opens up on May 19. As yet there is no central platform to register the tests throughout Austria. 

  • Salzburg and Upper Austria have announced they will make “living room” tests available as are currently used in Vorarlberg, in which people can test themselves at home and then register the tests in an online portal using a QR code. 
  • Upper Austria will make 20 self-test sets with QR codes available per month on Tuesday and use a website to register the test. 
  • Styria plans to administer more antigen tests, and says around 750,000 a month will be available  in Graz, for example. On May 18th and 19th there will be extended opening times in the test stations until 8pm and in Graz until 10pm . 
  • Vienna will continue to rely on its ‘Alles Gurgelt” gargle test programme. A registration app for restaurants is promised by the Chamber of Commerce

READ MORE: Austria: What are Vienna’s coronavirus gurgle tests?

READ MORE: What can Austria learn from Vorarlberg allowing indoor dining and events from Monday

Border traffic relaxed between Bavaria and Austria

The borders have been open to day trippers between Bavaria and Austria since midnight. Those crossing the border must show they have been vaccinated, tested or recovered from Covid-19, and the relaxation only applies to travelers who have only stayed in Germany or Austria in the past ten days. Tyrolean governor Günther Platter has also called for easing of restrictions of border traffic between Tyrol in Austria and South Tyrol, which is in Italy. 

Landing ban extended for India, South Africa and Brazil

Aircraft from the virus mutation areas India, South Africa and Brazil are not allowed to land in Austria at least until the beginning of June. The current landing ban, which would have expired next Tuesday, has been extended to June 6th. 

READ MORE: Austria to impose landing ban from India amid variant concerns.

Lower Austria to go ‘orange’

Lower Austria will join Burgenland as rated “orange” by Austria’s coronavirus traffic light commission. Orange is still “high risk” for coronavirus transmission but lower than red, which is defined as “acute” risk. 

READ MORE: Explained: How does Austria’s coronavirus traffic light system work

Seven day incidence at 89

The seven-day incidence, or the number of new infections with the coronavirus in the past seven days per 100,000 inhabitants, is 89.1 according to the AGES database. The number is highest in Vorarlberg (152.6) and Styria (120.2). The number is lowest in Burgenland at 47.5.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Austria in shock over doctor’s suicide following anti-vax abuse

Austrians expressed shock and anger this week over the suicide of doctor who had been the target of a torrent of abuse and threats from anti-vaccination protesters.

Austria in shock over doctor's suicide following anti-vax abuse

The bells of Vienna’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral rang out in memory of Lisa-Maria Kellermayr on Monday, and hundreds of people held a candle vigil outside, after the 36-year-old doctor was found dead at her practice on July 29.

She had long been the target of death threats because of her criticism of the widespread anti-lockdown protests of 2021.

An autopsy later confirmed that Kellermayr had taken her own life.

Austria has found itself deeply polarised over coronavirus restrictions and in particular a government policy –subsequently dropped — of making vaccination against the coronavirus compulsory.

Kellermayr — whose practice was in the region of Upper Austria where immunisation rates are particularly low — had frequently complained of the menace.

“For more than seven months, we have been receiving… death threats from those opposed to coronavirus measures and vaccinations,” she wrote at the time, sharing a message from one internet user who said they would pose as a patient in order to attack her and her staff.

She described how she had “invested more than 100,000 euros” ($102,000) in measures to ensure her patients’ safety and was on the brink of bankruptcy.

Then, at the end of June, Kellermayr announced on her professional website that she would not be seeing patients until further notice.

Daniel Landau, who organised a memorial vigil for her in Vienna, said that Kellermayr had become a virtual recluse for several weeks. “She didn’t dare to leave” her office, Landau told AFP.

Fanning the aggression

On Saturday, the head of Austria’s doctors’ association, Johannes Steinhart, said that while aggressive behaviour towards medical staff was not new, it had been “fired up and noticeably aggravated” by the debate over Covid-19 and vaccines.

The police, who had previously suggested Kellermayr was exploiting the situation for attention, insist they did everything to protect her. The local prosecutor’s office also rejected suggestions it could have done more.

“As soon as we received the police report (identifying one of the suspects), we sent it over to the relevant authorities in Germany,” spokesman Christoph Weber said.

On Friday, prosecutors in the neighbouring German state of Bavaria said a 59-year-old suspect was being investigated by a specialist hate speech unit.

At the beginning of the week, Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen visited the small town of Seewalchen where Kellermayr lived to lay flowers in her memory.

After news of her death broke, he had appealed to Austrians to “put an end to intimidation and fear”.

‘They’re gagging us’

But on some Telegram groups, the hateful messages continue.

“Some people are celebrating her death; others believe the vaccine killed her,” said Ingrid Brodnig, a journalist and author who investigates online disinformation.

“Stricts laws exist” already against online hate, but not enough is done to implement them, Brodnig said.

One government minister has floated the idea of a separate prosecutor’s office to target such cases. Doctors and researchers have also been targeted elsewhere.

French infectious disease specialist, Karine Lacombe, described how she had been vilified for her work as part of a collective of doctors combatting coronavirus-related disinformation.

She, too, complained that the response from the authorities in the face of threats was not robust enough, and has scaled down her public appearances this year.

“You end up thinking that the risk isn’t worth it,” she told AFP. “In that sense (the aggressors) have won, they are gagging us,” she said.