Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Friday

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

Vienna's State Opera House (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)
Vienna's State Opera House (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Italy lifts compulsory testing for cross-border commuters

People who live within 60 kilometers from the Italian border no longer have to undergo a coronavirus test to enter the country. The change affects people living in Austria, Switzerland, Slovenia and France who want to travel to Italy for professional reasons or for a day trip.

The new regulation also applies to Italians who live up to 60 kilometers from the border and want to travel to Austria, who do not have to take a test when they return to their home country. 

READ MORE: Explained: The new rules for entering Austria

Germany to ‘remove most states in Austria from red list’

Germany could remove Austria from the red list today, according to Die Presse newspaper, with the exception of the states of Tyrol and Vorarlberg. The warning against unnecessary tourist trips to Austria should also be dropped.

The information has not been confirmed by the German Foreign Ministry. All of Austria with the exception of the communities Jungholz and Mittelberg / Kleinwalsertal have been on the list of risk areas of the German Robert Koch Institute since November 1st, 2020. 

READ MORE: Germany bans travel from UK over covid Indian variant

Seven-day incidence at 32.9

The seven-day incidence, or the number of new infections with the coronavirus in the past seven days per 100,000 inhabitants, is 32.9. With the exception of Vorarlberg (82.1) and Tyrol (51.5), all federal states are below 50 – with Salzburg (19.3) and Burgenland (16) having the lowest values.

President Alexander Van der Bellen visits German President, will visit pope

Austrian President Van der Bellen visited his German counterpart Steinmeier on Thursday, on his first foreign trip since the pandemic, emphasising the German-Austrian friendship despite initial “communication problems” between the two countries over their respective handling of the pandemic, ORF reports.

Van der Bellen will travel to Rome on Sunday and meet Pope Francis and then Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin in the Vatican on Monday morning

Wolfgang Brandstetter resigns from Constitutional Court

Wolfgang Brandstetter has announced his resignation from the Constitutional Court VfGH following the publication of chat messages between Brandstetter and Christian Pilnacek, a senior civil servant at the Justice Ministry the Kronen Zeitung reports.

The chats messages have caused controversy because they contain alleged criticisms against public prosecutors, fellow judges, and instances of racism.

Pilnacek has been suspended pending an investigation, the newspaper notes.

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From inflation to Covid: What to expect from Austria’s winter season

Austria’s lucrative winter season has already been hit by pandemic restrictions for the past two years. But this year there is also record inflation, staff shortages and an energy crisis to deal with.

From inflation to Covid: What to expect from Austria's winter season

The winter season in Austria is a big driver of the country’s economy and has been hit hard by Covid-19 restrictions for the past two winters.

But this year the industry faces an even bigger crisis – a combination of rising inflation, concerns over energy supplies, staff shortages and the pandemic (because it’s not over yet).

We took a closer look to find out how these issues could impact the industry and what we could expect from this year’s winter season in Austria.

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Winter sports is a big guzzler of energy to operate ski lifts, apres ski venues and snow making machines. 

This means the industry is in a vulnerable position as energy prices rise, with some resort operators already confirming they will have to pass on some costs to customers.

Johann Roth, Managing Director at Präbichl in Styria, said that energy costs at the resort have tripled and admitted he is concerned about the coming winter season.

Roth told the Kronen Zeitung: “Of course we will have to increase the ticket prices, and to an extent that has never been seen in recent years.”

READ MORE: Cost of living: Why are restaurants getting more expensive in Austria?

At Planai ski resort in Schladming, Styria, Director Georg Bliem said they aim to keep the day ticket price under €70, but has also set up an energy task force to find cost-saving measures for this year. 

Suggestions for Planai include narrower slopes, reduced snowmaking capabilities, shorter cable car operating times and even a delayed start to the season.

Electricity costs at Planaibahn (the resort’s ski lift and gondola operator) were already at €3 million before the current energy crisis, according to the Kronen Zeitung.

Then there are hospitality businesses and hotels at ski resorts that are also being hit by rising costs.

As a result, the Kurier reports that room prices in overnight accommodation could increase by a further 15 percent in winter, and many people will no longer be able to afford skiing holidays.

Heating may be an issue in winter as the energy crisis looms (Photo by Achudh Krishna on Unsplash)


Rising prices are just one element of the energy crisis as there are fears that Austria will not have enough gas for the coming winter season – mostly due to the war in Ukraine.

In March, Austria activated the early warning system – which is the first level of a three-step emergency plan – for the country’s gas supply. If it reaches step three (emergency level), energy control measures will be put in place across the country.

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How this would impact ski resorts is unknown, but at the emergency level, households, essential industries and infrastructure would be prioritised for energy.

So far, there is no indication that step two (alert level) will be activated and the European Aggregated Gas Storage Inventory recently confirmed that Austria’s gas storage capacity was 60 percent full

Austria’s goal is to reach 80 percent capacity by November 1st in order to have a safety reserve.

However, Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler already appealed to businesses and households in July to start saving energy where possible.

Staff shortages

Ever since Austria (and Europe) started opening up after Covid-19 lockdowns, the hospitality and tourism industries have been struggling to find staff.

In fact, shortly before the start of the summer season in Austria, there were 30,000 open job vacancies in the tourism sector. And the Wiener Zeitung recently reported on how restaurants in Vienna are struggling to keep up with customer demand due to staff shortages. 

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The issue is even being discussed in parliament and it has already been made easier for seasonal workers in Austria to access residency through changes to the Red-White-Red card. 

Now, there are expectations of similar staff shortages for the winter season, which could cause further stress for ski resort operators.


Back in July, it was reported that the federal government was working on a Covid-19 contingency plan to get the country through another autumn and winter.

It envisages four scenarios – numbered from the best to the worst case. In the best case scenario, Austrians can live free of any pandemic rules. In the second best scenario, the situation will remain as it is (find out more about Austria’s latest Covid-19 rules here).

In scenario three, if new variants lead to more severe illness, the mask requirement will be expanded and more testing will be carried out.

READ MORE: REVEALED: The Covid-19 measures for the start of the Austrian school year

There could even be night-time curfews, entry tests and restrictions on private meetings. In addition, major events could be stopped from taking place and nightclubs closed.

Scenario four, the worst case scenario, would mean vaccination no longer offered protection and hospitals became overwhelmed, leading to severe restrictions on people’s social lives.

From what we’ve seen over the past two winters, scenarios three and four would likely impact winter sports operations. But to what degree would depend on the severity of the situation.