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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Austria rated worse on press freedom, new Omicron Covid-19 variant hits Vienna and more news from Austria on Tuesday.

People take a ride on a carousel at Vienna's famous amusement park of Prater.
Enjoy the sun today. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Austria slips down the rankings of countries in terms of  freedom of the press

Austria has fallen to 31st place in a ranking of countries with good press freedom by Reporters without Borders (ROG). It lost its place in the top group of countries with good press freedom in 2019 due to the “Ibiza” affair.

ROG told broadcaster ORF that Austria had been downgraded from 17th place due to attacks against journalists at demos protesting Covid-19 pandemic measures and following the disclosure of paid for positive reporting in tabloid media in the course of the ÖVP advertisement affair.

Austria is also the only EU country that still does not have a freedom of information law, communication scientist Fritz Hausjell from ROG Austria told the broadcaster.

READ MORE: 

New Omicron variant found in Vienna

The new omicron BA.4 variant is currently causing a new wave of Covid-19 in South Africa, and there are already almost 30 documented cases in Vienna.

The Kurier reports Austria is probably the first European country to have had a major transmission of BA.4.

According to the newspaper, people who are unvaccinated can easily be infected with the new variant, even if they have already had Omicron.

However, the antibody resistance is much better for people who have had a previous infection according to data from the South African scientist Alex Sigal. The World Health Organisation are said to be monitoring the new variant. 

Experts disagree over fourth jab

Experts are not in agreement over who needs a fourth vaccination, and if it should be given at all. At present, the city of Vienna recommends the fourth booster to all high-risk patients of all ages, as well as to anyone over the age of 65. This should be given four months after the third booster. 

However, Herwig Kollaritsch, a member of the National Vaccination Committee, pointed out in Vienna Today that if he has a fourth vaccination at the beginning of May, he will probably need a fifth vaccination in October, and asked people to consider if this made sense for them. 

However, Vienna’s city councillor for health, Peter Hacker (SPÖ) says there is no problem with having against a fifth vaccination when the autumn wave comes, broadcaster ORF reports.

Austria makes visit to Malta to talk about neutrality

The EU Austrian Minister Karoline Edstadtler (ÖVP) visited Malta on Monday to discuss how neutral states should proceed now countries such as Finland and Sweden make efforts to join NATO.

If both countries abandon their neutrality, only Austria, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta will be the only remaining neutral states within the EU. The Krone newspaper also reports there were discussions about how to manage migration and large numbers of refugees.

EXPLAINED: The history behind Austria’s neutrality

Austria prepared to support EU embargo on Russian oil

As the Local reported on Monday, Austria’s Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler has told reporters that the country is prepared to support a European Commission decision on further sanctions, including an embargo of Russian oil.

However, she added that an essential requirement for such a measure is that European countries be able to be united in the embargo. Austria stopped processing Russian oil in March, the minister pointed out. 

READ MORE: Austria throws support behind embargo of Russian oil

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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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