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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

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

Karl Nehammer
Catch up on the Chancellor's comments on the coming vaccine mandate and ongoing protests against Covid measures. Photo: Johanna Geron/Pool/AFP

Austria’s vaccine mandate takes a step closer to becoming reality

The Austrian government presented its final draft of the vaccine mandate law on Sunday following intense discussions with opposition parties and experts over the weekend.

One change from earlier versions is that the jabs will only be mandatory for adults, after previous versions of the law applied to everyone aged over 14. Other key points are:

  • Those who are found not to have been vaccinated will face an initial fine of €600 or up to €3,600 if they decide to challenge it in court.
  • People can avoid a fine if they get their first vaccination within two weeks of being notified.
  • The fines will only come into affect in mid-March.
  • A single person can be fined a maximum of four times during the year.
  • No one will go to prison if they refuse to pay their fines.

Read more about what the law contains here.

Nationwide Covid incidence rate passes 1,000

Over the weekend, the number of new confirmed cases of Covid per 100,000 residents over the past seven days topped 1,000 to reach 1,196. Salzburg had the highest incidence at 2,124, followed by Tyrol (1,958) and Vienna (1,629). 

Chancellor criticises violence at protests against Covid measures

Once again, large protests took place over the weekend in multiple towns and cities across Austria, to protest both Austria’s Covid restrictions and the coming vaccine mandate.

While the protests have been mostly peaceful, police have warned of far-right extremist involvement.

Chancellor Karl Nehammer said on Austrian TV on Sunday evening that a total of 52 police officers have been injured during the demonstrations since they first began, something he said was “completely unacceptable”.

Tourism minister warns ‘black sheep’ of hospitality sector

A prominent Austrian startup founder, Florian Gschwandtner, has apologised after sharing a video on Instagram of a rowdy party in an apres-ski bar in Kitzbühel, a Tyrol town with an incidence rate of over 3,000. Apres ski businesses are currently closed by law along with nightclubs, while a 10pm curfew applies to other restaurants and bars.

Asked about the video, Tourism Minister Elisabeth Köstinger said she had “absolutely no sympathy” with business owners who broke Austria’s current Covid rules, and noted that businesses which violate these rules are subject to repay any financial aid they reecived from the government during the pandemic. The Interior Ministry said the bar in the video was regularly checked and that an investigation into the video was underway, Die Presse reports.

Weather for this week

After a pleasant weekend across most of the country, Monday will bring strong winds to the west, with gusts of up to 100 km/h expected in Lower Austria and Vienna.

Lower lying areas can expect mild weather, with up to 10C in the Graz area for example, and further west there will be less rain and wind.

From Wednesday onwards, more snow can be expected, with stormy weather again on Thursday.

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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Mask rules being discussed with a possible relaxation on the way, Ibiza affair remembered, snake found in kindergarten sandpit and more news on Wednesday.

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

Austria’s National Council meets to discuss masks, the extension of pandemic laws and deficit 

Austria’s National Council will meet today (Wednesday) and Thursday. The new Minister of Agriculture Norbert Totschnig (ÖVP) is also expected to be sworn in this morning, having missed out on the ceremony due to a Covid infection last week. 

One item on the agenda is Austria’s mask rules. The council will discuss whether to extend the rules requiring masks to be worn in supermarkets, hospitals and banks over the summer. The current mask rules expire on July 8th. This law affects around 130,000 employees who work in retail. 

READ MORE: Austria to keep masks only in essential places from April 17th

The council will also extend laws aimed at countering the Covid pandemic, by ensuring the regulations in the Epidemics Act stay in place until June next year. This means the government will continue to have the right to impose exit restrictions from local epidemic areas and register people entering Austria. If necessary, it will still be possible for the government to make catering establishments and event organisers to collect the contact details of their guests.

Austria’s deficit will increase by 6.5 billion euros to 19.1 billion euros due to the effects of the war in Ukraine. Extra money will be spent on a national strategic gas reserve, energy relief packages and aid measures for displaced Ukrainians, while revenue is expected to fall due to lower economic growth, broadcaster ORF reports. 

Chancellor’s greeting to his party hints at further relaxation of Covid measures

Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) greeted his party on Saturday, saying: “So many in such a small room also means: so many viruses, but now we don’t care anymore.” He has since apologised and said he is aware the pandemic is still ongoing, according to the Kronen Zeitung newspaper. However, all entry rules to Austria were abolished on Monday, and the National Council will discuss mask wearing in supermarkets, banks and hospitals today (Wednesday). 

Gecko Chairwoman and Chief Medical Officer Katharina Reich has told the Kleine Zeitung newspaper that she believes masks should stay in essential retail. However, virologist Dorothee von Laer told the Kurier she considers dropping the mask requirement in July to be “justifiable”.

‘Ibiza scandal’ vice chancellor ‘regrets’ resignation 

The ex-FPÖ leader and vice chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, who left politics in disgrace following the Ibiza affair, which also led to the downfall of Austria’s coalition government, now says he regrets his resignation. Strache gave an interview with Puls 24 in the Ibizan villa which was the scene of the scandal on the three year anniversary of the event, in which he described himself as the victim of a political assassination. 

The scandal blew up after Strache was secretly filmed meeting the supposed niece of a Russian oligarch in an Ibizan villa. During the video Strache spoke of investing in one of Austria’s most popular newspapers, the Kronen Zeitung and getting rid of some of its journalists. He also promised state contracts in return for help with  FPÖ political campaigns. After excerpts of the video were published in May 2019, Strache retired as a politician. He now says this resignation was “probably my biggest mistake”.

READ MORE: What you need to know about the scandal which continues to grip Austrian politics

Survey shows almost half of job seekers in Austria want to work from home 

A survey of 1,000 visitors to the job portal Karriere.at found that around 47 percent would not be interested in a job which offered no flexibility around working from home. According to the survey, 63 percent have had good or very good experiences with flexible working. While working from home has increased during the pandemic, it is not  yet an established practice in all companies. 

For employees, home working means greater flexibility and can have a positive impact on work-life balance, the Kronen Zeitung newspaper reports. 

Snake found in kindergarten sandpit

Summer must be on the way, because yet another snake has been discovered hiding in Austria, not in a toilet this time, but in a kindergarten sandpit. 

Staff at a kindergarten in Pasching, Upper Austria called the ICARA animal rescue service out on Tuesday afternoon because there was a dice snake about 30 centimetres long hiding in the children’s sandpit. The snake was given treatment for a slight injury and then released, the Kronen Zeitung reports.

READ MORE: Why do snakes keep appearing in Austrian toilets? 

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