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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

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

Anti vax protestors Austria
Protests are expected today as Austria prepares to pass a law making vaccines mandatory for all adults without medical exemptions. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

Vaccine mandate to be passed today

Today’s the day that Austria’s law making vaccines compulsory is set to be passed in the National Council, where it is expected to get a large majority with only the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) voting against.

Austria will become the first place in Europe except the Vatican City to introduce such a mandate, though other countries have moved in a similar direction. Greece has begun issuing fines to unvaccinated over-60s, Italy has made the jab mandatory for everyone over 50, while a full vaccine mandate for the general population has also been discussed by politicians in Slovakia and Germany for example.

In Austria, the first fines won’t be issued until mid-March and even then it will be possible to avoid the fine by getting the Covid-19 vaccine within two weeks. 

Protests are expected in central Vienna during the day, but there is a ban on holding protests within 300 metres during a meeting of the National Council which means police have refused permits to several demonstration organisers. One rally has been confirmed on Maria-Theresien-Platz between 7am and midnight.

At-home antigen tests to be accepted for 3G again (but not in Vienna)

Self-tests for Covid-19 will once again be accepted as 3G in all of Austria except Vienna, after the government updated its guidelines to allow regions and the healthcare sector to cope with a sharp rise in new cases.

In order for them to be accepted as 3G, the test must have been recorded in an official system and verified. The test results will be valid for 24 hours from the time of testing.

Salzburg to send SMS to people who test positive for Covid

The new system comes into effect from tomorrow, Salzburger Nachrichten reports. This is to take some of the pressure off overworked contact tracers who were previously aiming to phone confirmed cases.

The text will contain a link where recipients can enter information about their isolation.

Austria records a new all-time high for daily Covid cases

A total of 27,677 new infections were reported in the 24 hours up to Wednesday, the Health and Interior Ministries confirmed on Wednesday afternoon (this was revised slightly from earlier statements).

According to Austria’s Covid Forecasting Consortium, the Omicron wave has not yet reached its peak and around 40,000 daily cases can be expected next week. 

Vienna gets its first Queer Museum

And now for something non Covid-related. Since the start of 2022, Vienna’s Folklore Museum has been hosting the Queer Museum Vienna, the first specifically LGBTQ-themed museum in the Austrian capital which will remain at the Folklore Museum until June.

Price hikes on consumer goods

Electricity and fuel costs have risen significantly in recent months, but it’s not only your monthly bills where you might feel the pinch.

Rising production costs are being passed onto consumers in other areas, with IKEA Austria confirming price hikes of nine percent and is one of multiple retailers raising their prices for consumers according to Salzburger Nachrichten which lamented “a lot of fun things are getting more expensive”.

Lovers of baked goods are affected too, with prices for bread and pastries likely to rise by around 15 percent according to the Chamber of Commerce, again due to higher energy prices.

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For members

TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Traffic jams and packed trains warning, concerns over gas, no subway for Graz and more news on Wednesday.

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

Packed trains and traffic jams expected in coming days

Trains and roads in Austria are expected to be packed over the coming days as people head off on their holidays. The ÖBB train website warns people should make a reservation on trains before travelling, and says it will provide up to 10,000 additional seats on Ascension Day, Pentecost and Corpus Christi.

The number of train travellers in Austria has increased sharply due to the waning of the pandemic, the Klima ticket and the high cost of petrol, broadcaster ORF reports. 

According to the Austrian motorist club ÖAMTC, drivers can expect “heavy traffic” over the long weekend. 

READ MORE:

Graz decides against subway

The city of Graz has finally decided against building a subway, but has instead decided to build two new S-Bahns instead and a tunnel through the city centre, it was revealed on Tuesday. Experts spent a year examining five concepts before coming up with the decision. The subway was the most expensive option, and would have cost more than 3.5 billion euros, whereas the two S-Bahn tunnel projects are significantly cheaper, costing  2 .2 billion euros, broadcaster ORF reports. 

Experts weigh in over mask requirement

As The Local reported on Tuesday, masks will no longer be required in Austria’s public transport and essential retail from the beginning of June. As usual, Vienna will keep stricter rules in place than the rest of the country, and require masks on public transport. However, experts meeting in Vienna from the research platform “Covid-19 Future Operations” on Tuesday called for the government to be prepared for the “worst case scenario” in the autumn and winter. 

Some experts were critical of the relaxed rules in place from June, with virologist Dorothea van Laer saying she would have kept the mask requirement in pharmacies and in essential shops in order to be able to protect vulnerable groups, broadcaster ORF reports.

READ MORE: 

Concerns over emergency plans for gas

Businesses are raising concerns that no emergency plans are in place in the event Russia stops delivering gas to Austria. Austria is one of the most dependent countries on Russian gas in the EU. Der Standard reports Voestalpine, a large steel company based in Linz, has had only “sporadic” talks with the government about the possible crisis. Katharina Koßdorff, Managing Director of the Food Industry Association says there are no “concrete emergency plans” for this scenario, adding the Austrian food industry is almost 100 percent reliant on Russian gas. 

Austria has started to buy gas for its strategic reserve. On Monday the government spent almost one billion euros on 7.7 terawatt hours (TWh) of gas. Leonore Gewessler’s climate ministry, which is responsible for energy, said it was unclear where the gas comes from, as there are no proofs of origin on the gas market. It can be assumed that Russian gas makes up part of what has been purchased, according to a spokesman for Gewessler (Greens).

READ MORE: REVEALED: What is Austria’s emergency plan if Russia cuts gas supply

Van der Bellen speaks out over citizenship and Austria’s military

Austria’s President Alexander Van der Bellen has told the Kleine Zeitung newspaper he believes in making it easier to become naturalized as an Austrian. In the interview he said the hurdles for obtaining citizenship were currently “too high”. He has also given an interview to Der Standard in which he says Austria should spend more on its army and increase the number of diplomats, though he draws the line at joining NATO, arguing Austria does not need to be so “bellicose”.

Van der Bellen has gathered further support for his aim to be re-elected in the autumn from the ÖVP government team. Although the People’s Party does not officially recommend his election, State Secretary Florian Tursky (ÖVP)  has said he would support his fellow Tyrolean. However, Van der Bellen will face competition from the head of Austria’s Beer Party Dominik Wlazny, who also goes by the name of his alter ego, Marco Pogo, as well as candidates from the anti-vaccination MFG party and the far right FPÖ. 

READ ALSO: Could presidential criticism lead to Austrian citizenship rule changes?

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