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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.

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Upper Austria has halted contact tracing due to the Omicron surge, plus the rest of the news to start your week. Photo: Matthias Mitterlehner/Unsplash

People with a Covid booster can now travel to Austria from any country

The 2G+ rule applies from today to all travellers coming to Austria after the country scrapped its virus variant list which imposed stricter conditions on people from 14 countries, including the UK, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, South Africa and nine other African countries.

This means that all travellers need to show a valid vaccination or recovery certificate, and either proof of a booster dose or a negative Covid-19 test. People who have a full course of vaccination and also recovered from the virus after their vaccination are also exempt from the requirement to show a test result.

National incidence rate approaches 2,000

The rate of new cases in Austria per 100,000 residents over the past seven days is now at 1,867 according to AGES.

The delays in data that we reported on last week are ongoing, and have prompted Viennese Health Councillor to write to Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein to say the delays mean he has “the worst overview of the current situation” since the beginning of the pandemic.

Upper Austria forced to pause contact tracing 

That’s because of the surge in new cases at the moment. The region’s Councillor for Healthcare Christine Haberlander said that the rate of spread meant it was now less possible to break chains of infection through contact tracing.

People who receive a positive test result will still be contacted by healthcare authorities, but they will then be asked to inform their own recent contacts.

Flu cases on the rise in Vienna

Vienna has reported a rise in flu cases alongside the Covid-19 Omicron wave, You can find the latest flu statistics for the region on its website (in German only).

The vaccination against influenza is free for all children aged up to 15 in Austria as part of the child vaccination programme, and for people in risk groups. In Vienna, the flu vaccine is offered free to all residents.

READER QUESTION: How do I get a flu vaccine in Austria?

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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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