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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.

The Biathlon World Cup in Hochfilzen, Austria this week. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

Austria to recommend booster shot to over-12s

Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein made this announcement at a press conference on the new Omicron variant of Covid-19 on Tuesday, where together with other government representatives and scientific experts he predicted that there would be a fifth wave of the virus in Austria in January driven by Omicron. The new recommendation is expected to be approved by the National Vaccine Committee later today — currently only over-18s are generally eligible for booster shots.

Mückstein also appealed to adults to get their booster before Christmas if possible, based on UK data that shows people who had received three vaccine doses (or two doses in addition to having previously recovered from the virus) had a higher level of protection from the new variant than those who had received two doses. So far Austria has confirmed 59 cases of the variant.

Memorial for Covid-19 victims and counter-demonstration planned for Sunday

A silent memorial for Austria’s more than 13,000 Covid-19 victims is planned for this Sunday, with every participant expected to carry a candle or torch and remain silent. It will take place on the Ring road in Vienna at 4.30pm.

The event has received police proposal and is also intended as a counter-balance to the protests that have gathered huge crowds across Austria in recent weeks and sometimes turned violent — though the organisers of the memorial said they did not intend their event as an “endorsement” of government measures either.

Suspected trafficker arrested after two deaths in Burgenland 

In October, two dead bodies were found in a minibus at the Austria-Hungary border when police searched the vehicle, finding around 30 other migrants packed inside. The driver fled the scene during the checks.

Now, the alleged bus driver has been arrested on suspicion of human trafficking, Burgenland police said. They describe him as a 19-year-old from Latvia, who was arrested in his home country. Police said they have identified and taken into custody a further 12 suspected human traffickers as a result of the investigation.

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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