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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Fuel and food costs soar in Austria, Maypole drama and more news from Austria on Monday.

Children jump into a swimming pool
Swimming pools open today in Vienna. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP)

Inflation at almost seven percent in Austria

Statistics Austria say the inflation rate in March was 6.8 percent in Austria, hitting levels not seen since November 1981.

There has been a  sharp rise in prices for fuel and household energy, and also for food. However, inflation will affect different households depending on car and energy use. Statistics Austria has released an inflation calculator which allows you to calculate how much you are affected personally. 

The price level for petrol and diesel was more than 50 percent higher than in March 2021, fuel cost over two euros per litre for the first time, and the costs of household energy rose by 33.5 percent. On average, heating oil cost more than twice as much as a year earlier, the prices for natural gas and electricity rose by 71.9 and 16.5 percent.

Groceries and non-alcoholic beverages rose 5.8 percent year-on-year. The mini-shopping basket, which is also calculated by Statistics Austria and reflects weekly shopping, but which also includes services and fuel, was significantly more expensive overall (plus 13.7 percent), while  the micro-shopping basket, which reflects daily shopping, became 6.3 percent more expensive.

Call to reduce VAT on everyday goods from Union boss

The President of the Austrian Federation of Trade Unions Wolfgang Katzian has called for the government to reduce VAT on everyday goods or to suspend it for a certain period of time, saying it would bring “quick relief”. 

He said firms which had invested in Ukraine, for example to manufacture cable harnesses for the car industry in Austria, should not be compensated for losses due to the outbreak of war. He told Der Standard newspaper: “It’s not possible to privatise profits and socialise losses.” He also warned of mass unemployment if Russian gas stopped flowing to Austria.

Maypole almost falls on people in restaurant Schanigarten

A Wiener Neustadt maypole almost fell on a number of diners enjoying an outside meal in the main square. The Krone newspaper reports the foundations gave way and the maypole was leaning at a dangerous angle. The Schanigarten customers had to be brought to safety by emergency crews.  

Several maypoles fell down or came close to it over the weekend. In the Baden district, the trees were cut down. In Pottendorf, strangers sawed down a maypole at a roundabout and stole decorative figures, in Deutsch-Brodersdorf the tree in front of the fire station was cut down. In both cases, the trees were left on the road.

Stealing a maypole is a cherished tradition in many parts of Austria and Germany. However, Pottendorf’s mayor  Thomas Sabbata-Valteiner (SPÖ) was wants to press charges against those responsible, saying it could have caused a car accident. 

South Tyrol wants to limit the number of tourists staying overnight

In both North and South Tyrol, discussions are underway about how many visitors the region can continue to tolerate. The South Tyrolean state government wants to introduce an upper bed limit, with bed numbers frozen at 2019 levels despite criticism from the Hoteliers and Innkeepers Association (HGV) and the Association of Municipalities. However, at present an upper limit on overnight stays is not possible in the entire state of Tyrol.

South Tyrol is one of the densest tourism regions in the Alps, according to broadcaster ORF. In 2019, 33 million overnight stays were registered. Around 530,000 people live in the state. Around eleven percent of the added value in South Tyrol can be traced back to tourism.

Campsites and beds that are rented out via booking platforms such as Airbnb have not yet been included in the statistics.

Summer pools open in Vienna

Vienna’s 17 outdoor swimming pools opened on Monday morning, without Covid-19 restrictions. There will be no distance rules or visitor restrictions this year, although it will still be possible to buy tickets online and view the traffic light on the website which shows how busy the pool is. Admission prices will be the same as in 2020.

Later in May, subsidised swimming lessons will be released for children who attended Grade 3 of elementary school in the past three years. They will cost 25 euros per child. These children will also be given six free sessions at  indoor and outdoor pools from the beginning of July to the end of September 2022 with an accompanying adult. You can find out more here.

No way out of high taxes due to strong welfare state in Austria

Austria has one of the highest tax rates on earned income internationally, with contribution rates of almost 40 percent of the gross salary, shared between employers and employees. These costs hinder the creation of new jobs, according to the economists of the OECD and the Economic Research Institute (Wifo), and dampen purchasing power, Der Standard newspaper reports. 

The paper notes more than half of the contributions go towards the state pension which is one of the best in the world and combats poverty in old age more effectively than in Germany, for example. At just under eight percent, the second largest chunk is health insurance contributions. According to the newspaper there is no appetite to reduce contributions in this area due to the rising costs of medicine and an ageing society. 

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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

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