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

Every weekday, The Local brings you an English-language summary of the news you need to know in Austria.

Covid protest Vienna
More protests are planned in Vienna today against the Covid-19 restrictions and mandatory vaccination plan. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

Applications open for another round of aid for businesses 

Austria’s Härtefallfond (Hardship Fund) is open for another round of applications for help from business owners affected by the consequences of the pandemic.

To be eligible, you need to have lost out on income between November 2021 and March 2022, with at least a 30 percent loss in November and December and at least a 40 percent loss from January onwards. You also need to have founded your business on November 11th, 2021 at the latest. If you are eligible, you should receive at least €1,100 for November and December and €600 for the months after that, and up to €2,000 depending on the level of your losses.

Applications are made via the Chamber of Commerce. According to the Finance Ministry, almost a quarter of a million business owners in Austria have been helped by this aid during the crisis. Click here to find out more and make your application, from 10am Wednesday morning.

Lockdown extended but shops will open on Sunday December 19th

The government yesterday officially extended the lockdown for an extra ten days, meaning December 11th will be the final day. This was expected but needed to be done, since Austria’s Covid laws only allow the government to implement lockdown for a ten-day period at a time.

If the pandemic situation post-lockdown allows for shops to open, the government wants to give non-essential retail businesses the chance to open on Sunday, so businesses and customers have the chance to catch up on Christmas shopping and lost turnover during the lockdown. The union said the one-off exception should not be seen as a move towards Sunday opening more generally.

Retail workers who opt to work on this day will earn double pay plus an extra day off.

Inflation reaches highest level since 1992

In November, inflation in Austria reached 4.3 percent, the highest level in almost 30 years, according to initial estimates from Statistik Austria. That’s up from 3.9 percent in October. Rising energy prices were a big reason for the increase.

Austrian data shows how vaccines lower the risk of hospitalisation from Covid

Data from clinical trials and countries around the world has shown us that the Covid-19 vaccines are highly effective in preventing severe illness and hospitalisation from the illness.

For the first time, AGES has analysed real-world Austrian data and found that the Covid vaccines offer protection of around 95 percent in preventing hospital admission from the virus. This was based on data on vaccination and hospital admissions in Vienna and Vorarlberg. The protection rates were slightly higher for AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna than for Johnson & Johnson, and the protection rate was around 95 percent in all age groups studied (over 18s only).

More Omicron cases confirmed in Austria

According to authorities in Lower Austria, a case of the new Covid variant Omicron has been confirmed in the region in a person who was already in quarantine. There are several more suspected cases in more Austrian regions, and it follows the first confirmed case in Tyrol.

More Covid demonstrations in Vienna today

A demonstration is planned for 3pm today in Vienna, with around 2,000 participants expected. Parts of the ring road and Franz-Josefs-Kai will be closed off until 7pm. The protest is scheduled to move from Maria-Theresien-Platz over the Ringstraße to Franz-Josefs-Kai and then back to Maria-Theresien-Platz. Motorists association ÖAMTC has warned motorists and public transport users to expect potential delays getting to the city centre.

Yesterday, Interior Minister Karl Nehammer warned protestors not to let extremists take advantage of the crisis and protests to cause violence, saying that Covid provided extremists with the “opportunity of the century”. He reaffirmed the right to demonstrate, but called on protestors to avoid violence and the anti-Semitic imagery and slogans that have been seen at recent protests. 

“We all want our freedom back,” said Nehammer. “But the way to get there is not through violence, but through vaccination.”

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

German classes for refugees, vaccination, the weather for today and more news from Austria on Monday.

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

Debate about German courses for refugees

Austria is debating the best way to provide German classes for refugees and promote integration, as Der Standard reports.

Firstly, refugees usually have one single German-speaking teacher and almost no contact with German-speaking students at schools, reducing their contact with the language considerably. They also never hear their mother tongue in the context of school.

However, this mainly happens among schoolchildren with poor knowledge of German from Turkey, Syria, Serbia and even Austria.

The situation is different in most classes that were set up for Ukrainian refugee children, the daily said. These kids usually have at least two teachers who speak German (one would speak Ukrainian as well).

The Austrian daily paper says students have already noticed the difference. “The German class with children from Syria is separated by only a wall from the Ukrainian class – and everyone can see how much resources go where”, according to the report.

READ ALSO: How Austria and Austrians are helping Ukrainian refugees

Vienna expands vaccination offers

Long lines in Viennese vaccination centres led to people having to wait one and a half to two hours to get the coronavirus jab, according to reports in Austria media.

Broadcaster ORF said that the surge in demand comes just after the city of Vienna simplified the access to the fourth Covid vaccination. As a result, people can get the shot after four months of the third dose without the need for registration or appointment.

With increasing coronavirus numbers ahead of the summer holidays, the search for the vaccine has also risen. While about 300 people were vaccinated daily less than two weeks ago, about 1,300 people went every day at the weekend, the report said.

Health authorities recommend people make an appointment even though they are not required to. “With an appointment, it’s easier for us to plan, and there is also a separate area for people with appointments”, Susanne Drapalik, chief physician at the Samaritan League, told reporters.

The Austrian capital will also extend the opening hours of the vaccination centres to meet demand.

READ ALSO: Covid-19 in Austria: When should you get your fourth vaccine dose?

Austria’s government calls for blood donations

Austria’s hospitals are running out of blood, Die Presse reported. As a result, the Austrian Red Cross and the federal government are asking the population to donate blood.

“I urge you to take the time, go donate blood, and save the life of a fellow human being”, Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) said.

As of next September, there will also be non-discriminatory blood donation in Austria, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. However, it is worth noting that several people are still excluded from blood donation in Austria. In addition, the authorities require a fluent knowledge of German so that you can go through the pre-interview and fill out the forms without help or a translator.

Additionally, people who were born or lived for more than six months in several countries where there are diseases such as malaria, including Brazil, for example, have a life ban on blood donation in Austria, according to the Red Cross website.

READ ALSO: Austria to end blood donor discrimination based on sexual orientation

Rain showers bring temperatures down in Austria

From Vorarlberg to Upper Austria, there will be clouds interchanging with sunny times during the morning. Some regions will also have rain showers and thunderstorms.

In the rest of the country, including Vienna, the sun often shines, at least during the morning, Austria’s central meteorological and geodynamic institute ZAMG says.

From the late morning, more and more clouds start forming and accumulating, especially over the mountains and in the hills, and will likely bring more thunderstorms and rain. However, it remains sunny and dry for longer in Austria’s far east and southeast.

Day maximum temperatures throughout Austria go from 24C to 34C. At night, heavy downpours are expected, and even thunderstorms in the eastern half of Austria. The lowest temperatures of the night are between 14C and 20C.

READ ALSO: Wild weather in Austria: How to protect yourself during summer storms