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Today in Austria: A round-up of the latest news on Thursday

Find out what's going on in Austria today with The Local's short round-up of the news.

A healthcare worker receives an injection with the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine
JENS SCHLUETER / AFP

Vaccination in Tyrol 

Vaccination will start today in the Schwaz district of Tyrol, which has received extra vaccines from the EU due to the spread of the South African virus variant, in the area. 

Around 48,500 people have registered for a vaccination from Biontech / Pfizer,  around 76 percent of those eligible for vaccination, according to the Wiener Zeitung newspaper. 

Hospital numbers expected to rise

The Ministry of Health in Austria is expecting hospital numbers to rise, and says infection rates will increase from 2,400 a day to around 2,900 in the coming week. By March 17th the daily number could be 3,200, the Wiener Zeitung newspaper reports.

In Vienna, a third of beds are expected to be occupied by Covid patients. This could also happen in Burgenland and Lower Austria, though intensive care beds are unlikely to be exceeded in any federal state by March 24th.

The experts say the vaccination progress within the age group of 65 to 79-year-olds is  too low. Only two to three percent in this age group are vaccinated.

Gurgle PCR test proposed for schools 

Experts say new gurgle PCR tests for schools could allow school children and parents to get back to normal.  The idea is supported by Vienna’s City Councilor for Education Christoph Wiederkehr and the simulation expert Niki Popper from the TU University in Vienna, according to broadcaster ORF.

Children are lonely in the pandemic

On the anniversary of the corona pandemic, a survey by  The Sora Institute has shown two out of three children feel lonely.

More than half of the parents surveyed say their child’s learning has suffered. Both children and parents feel more stressed since the pandemic began, according to Der Standard newspaper. 

‘Made in Austria’ masks come from China

According to Wiener Zeitung, Hygiene Austria, the mask manufacturer accused of selling masks from China as an Austrian company, is now threatened with several lawsuits over its “Made in Austria” claims.

The news comes as, according to Die Presse, the head of the supervisory board of the fiber manufacturer Lenzing, Peter Edelmann claims the company was co-founded not to earn money, but to make an important contribution to the protection of the population.

Latest corona statistics

The 7-day incidence, or the number of new infections with the coronavirus in the past seven days per 100,000 inhabitants, is 187.9 (as of 2 p.m. yesterday) according to the Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES). 

The number is highest in Salzburg (251.4), Vienna (228.3) and Burgenland (226.5). The value is still lowest in Vorarlberg (74.8) and Tyrol (104.3).

Around 608, 045 people in Austria have received a first dose of the coronavirus vaccine (around 7 percent of the population). 252.097 people have received both doses.

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POLITICS

EXPLAINED: Who will be Tyrol’s new governor?

The Austrian state of Tyrol held elections over the weekend with historical results, especially for the leading ÖVP party. So who will be its new governor?

EXPLAINED: Who will be Tyrol's new governor?

The western Austrian state of Tyrol is a stronghold for the centre-right party ÖVP, which also leads the governing coalition in the federal government. On Sunday, Austrian citizens went to the polls for the state parliament elections, forming new legislation – and putting their support on their favourite candidates.

Even though the ÖVP got most of the votes, it is far from getting a majority and will need to enter into a coalition to rule. The party got 34.71 percent of the votes, down by 9.55 percentage points from the previous elections and a significant setback for the blacks. However, this gives them 14 seats in parliament.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How do Austrians elect their chancellor?

The centre-left SPÖ ended with 17.48 percent of the votes – just 0.23 percentage points higher than the last vote in 2018, getting seven seats. On the other hand, the far-right FPÖ got a major victory, upping their results by 3.31 percentage points and reaching 18.84 percent, guaranteeing seven seats in parliament.

The Grüne ended with 9.20 percent (three seats), Fritz with 9.90 percent (three seats), Neos with 6.28 percent (two seats), MFG with 2.78 percent, KPÖ with 0.67 percent and Mach mit with 0.13 percent.

How does the election process work?

Tyrol, much like the Austrian federal government, has a parliamentary system. This means voters will choose the parties they want to have seats in the state parliament. So, for example, ÖVP will get about a third of the seats in the house.

The parties need a minimum percentage of votes to get representation in the parliament. Even though MFG, KPÖ and Mach Mit got votes, they have failed to elect representatives and gain seats in the state parliament.

READ ALSO: Austrian presidential elections: What exactly does the president do?

After the parliament is elected, its members then choose a governor. In practice, since the parties already run with a suggested government candidate, people who vote for them also know which person they elect for the executive position.

In the case of ÖVP, Anton Mattle, the 59-year-old career politician, was the party’s choice for the top state job. Had the party won more than 50 percent of the votes, they would be able to elect Mattle, the new governor, without discussing it with other parties.

But, since it didn’t, the ÖVP now will start talks with other parties looking to form a majority government and elect Mattle – plus ensure that by having a clear majority in the state parliament, they will be able to pass legislation.

What coalitions are possible?

Technically, any coalitions between two or more parties that lead to a majority in the state legislature are possible, even those without ÖVP. However, since the centre-right party got the most votes, it traditionally receives the right to try and form a government first.

Experts believe the most likely scenario is for a major coalition between the blacks and the reds, meaning the ÖVP and the SPÖ. They would have to discuss their main government proposals, the distribution of executive positions and other points to see if an ÖVP-SPÖ government is possible.

READ ALSO: Austrian presidential elections: Why 1.4 million people can’t vote

An ÖVP-FPÖ coalition could also technically have a majority, but Mattle had already rejected the idea of an agreement with only the far-right.

Additionally, ÖVP could look into a three-way coalition, bringing, for example, the Grüne and Fritz to the government.

So who will be the next governor?

It is most likely that Anton Mattle, from the ÖVP, will get the job. The only question is who his party will be ruling with.

He told Austrian media that the exploratory talks for a coalition agreement would start in the coming days.

READ ALSO: Austrian presidential elections: Who are the seven candidates?

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