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

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

Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Friday
Interior Minister Karl Nehammer (far left) is expected to take over as Chancellor after the departures of People's Party leader Sebastian Kurz (second from right) and Finance Minister Gernot Blümel (far right). Photo: Alex Halada/AFP

Kurz is leaving politics: What are the reactions?

Die Presse called it “the end of a phenomenon”, saying youthful Kurz had been a “beacon of hope” for a revival in his conservative party.

Several publications described the end of an era, with public broadcaster ORF calling it a “short but turbulent and incisive era”.

His predecessor Reinhold Mitterlehner said to the Tiroler Tageszeitung: “After careful consideration, Kurz had to realise that he would not be able to lead the ÖVP in any election in the medium term. And he had to realise that with every extra day in office he was damaging the party.”

“Kurz’s career as a politician has failed, the party has to take its fate into its own hands again,” was the claim of a column in Der Standard.

And a few questions remain open, the biggest being how the government will change as a result. On that note…

Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg and Finance Minister Gernot Blümel also quit

Finance Minister Gernot Blümel announced his resignation from politics on Thursday evening, saying he was prompted to do so by the birth of his second child and by Kurz’s announcement. Like Kurz, there is an ongoing corruption investigation against Blümel.

And Kurz’s successor, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg, also announced that he was leaving his post.

This means a big reshuffle of the cabinet is expected, and we should learn more today after the ÖVP party board meets. A press conference is scheduled for 11.30am, and we will have more updates for you then. Interior Minister Karl Nehammer is tipped by many experts to be the next Chancellor.

Austria is reviewing contact tracing regulations

The recommendations for people who have contact with a positive Covid case are being reviewed due to concerns over the new Omicron variant, the Health Minister said on Thursday, confirming earlier reports from the Kronen Zeitung.

We don’t know the details yet, but one possibility is that fully vaccinated people who share a household with someone infected with Covid-19 will be required to isolate. At the moment, people in this situation are ‘category 2’ contact people, which means no isolation requirement but a recommendation to reduce your contacts.

Franco-Austrian Covid jab under EU review

A Covid-19 vaccine developed by Franco-Austrian biotech company Valneva is being assessed by the European Medicines Agency with a view to roll it out. The EU has already ordered close to 60 million doses.
Europe’s drug watchdog launched an accelerated review on Thursday of a Covid-19 vaccine by Franco-Austrian biotech firm Valneva, for which the EU has already signed a deal for up to 60 million doses.

And more Covid news

The whole country remains red or ‘very high risk’ in the latest review from Austria’s Corona Commission, although the commission’s risk number (based on several factors including incidence rate, hospitalisation rate and others) for each region is sinking. The commission recommends a “cautious” re-opening when the lockdown ends on December 12th. Based on the commission’s risk numbers, eastern Austria (Vienna, Burgenland and Lower Austria) is in the best position while Tyrol and Carinthia are at highest risk.

Meanwhile, the recent protests against restrictions and against the planned vaccine mandate have led police in Lower Austria to strengthen their presence outside hospitals, ORF reports. One medical director told the broadcaster that relatives visiting patients had been insulted by demonstrators, and leaflets had been left on hospital employees’ cars comparing them to Joseph Mengeles, a Nazi war criminal who carried out medical experiments on concentration camp prisoners.

And experts in Austria estimate the national immunity rate at around 71 percent, up from 61 percent at the start of November. That’s based on simulations and includes immunity from vaccines and previous infections, taking into account the fact immunity weakens over time.

Some ski seasons start today in Austria

December 3rd marks the opening of ski seasons in several parts of Austria, with Covid-19 restrictions in place. This means you’ll need proof of 2G (vaccination or recovery) for most ski lifts, gondolas and indoor areas, and an FFP2 mask in enclosed areas. Restaurants and bars are closed under the lockdown but can offer food and drinks to take away.

Some of the first ski resorts to open include Ischgl, Hochzeiger and Axamer Lizum in Tyrol, Bad Kleinkirchheim, Gerlitzen, and Turrach in Carinthia, Hochkar in Lower Austria, Hinterstoder in Upper Austria, and Gargellen in Vorarlberg, all set to kick off the season today.

Civil servants given an average pay rise of 3 percent

That’s the result of three rounds of negotiations between the union and employers (in this case, Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler). It affects around 225,000 people directly means civil servants on lower incomes will get a 3.22 percent wage increase from January 1st, and higher earners will get 2.91 percent extra.

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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