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EDUCATION

What are the latest coronavirus measures in schools and kindergartens in Austria?

Schools in the eastern states of Austria (Vienna, Burgenland and Lower Austria) are currently switched to distance learning. But what will have changed in schools when they go back after Easter? 

Kids going to school
JOE KLAMAR / AFP

Schools in the eastern Austrian states of Vienna, Burgenland and Lower Austria have switched to distance learning since the start of April. 

Distance learning in schools in the three states will remain in place until April 18th, after a decision on April 6th to extend the lockdown due to concerns about dwindling ICU capacity

Here’s what you need to know. 

Why are schools closed – and when will they open?

If the seven-day incidence in a municipality district exceeds 400 schools should switch to distance learning, unless the cluster can be linked to a specific outbreak.

However, if the incidence drops permanently, schools should open full time again. 

More sensitive tests for schools planned after Easter break 

Since 15th March, all children at school must test themselves three times a week at elementary and special schools, and alternate days in all other schools.

Children who can show they have experienced a coronavirus infection in the past six months or still have antibodies do not need a test. 

Better self-tests with a higher sensitivity should be offered from the AHS lower level and middle school after Easter, it was announced last week according to the Vienna AT website.

Quarantine rules to become stricter 

If two people in a classroom  test positive for coronavirus with a PCR test, the entire class should be sent to quarantine for 14 days.

Pupils and teachers with an infection in the class will automatically be classified as Category 1 contact persons. These measures, previously in place in Vienna, now apply across Austria. 

What about PCR tests in schools?

Education Minister Fassmann is aware critics say tests are not sensitive enough, but notes PCR testing of all students, teaching and administrative staff, several times a week, would “cross logistical boundaries”, according to the website Vienna AT.

PCR tests take longer to process than the fast antigen tests, and do not give results in 15 minutes. 

Gurgle tests continue to be used

Gurgle tests, a form of PCR test which involves gargling, are being used in two ways in Austria.

The first is an Austria wide “gargle study” which began in Autumn 2020 of around 14,800 pupils between the ages of six and 15 in primary and secondary levels, as well as around 1,200 teachers who are tested at regular intervals. 

READ MORE: Vienna to roll out free coronavirus ‘gurgle tests’ next week

The second is a gurgle test offering provided by the Ministry for Education, Science and Research (BMBWF) and the Vienna health authorities since September 2020.

The gurgle tests are used by mobile teams from the local health authority when there are suspected cases of coronavirus in schools. 

New corona tests for kindergartens

A project will start on 7th April in Lower Austria to give kindergarten children “lollipop tests” in five kindergartens.

The aim is to detect CoV infections earlier in kindergarten.

If the pilot project is a success, it could be rolled out across Lower Austria in the next two weeks.

The tests are said to be similar to using a toothbrush, broadcaster ORF reports.

Masks remain mandatory

Masks covering the mouth and nose must be worn in school buildings in Austria.  In elementary and special schools masks only need to be worn by children outside of the class and group rooms

Lower secondary school students must wear masks throughout  the school building, and upper secondary level should wear FFP2 masks within the school building

Teachers and people working in school administration should wear an FFP 2 mask within the school building. 

Special allowances for children whose grades have suffered due to lockdown

Children who receive a grade of 5 (nicht genügend or “unsatisfactory) in one subject will not have to repeat the school year. If the child has missed the grade two years in a row, a repeat examination can be taken.

The maximum length a child can attend school is being increased by one year to allow children to catch up by repeating a year voluntarily. 

Laptops available for lockdown learning 

Parents or legal guardians who do not have laptops should contact their school directly to see if they can borrow one. In addition the #weiterlernen initiative gives out donated devices to schoolchildren across Austria free of charge. Find out more on the website weiterlernen.at.

 

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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

‘Bad-tempered locals’: Vienna ranked the world’s ‘unfriendliest city’

Foreigners in Vienna say the city offers excellent health and transport benefits but has an exceptionally unfriendly population.

'Bad-tempered locals': Vienna ranked the world's 'unfriendliest city'

The Spanish port city of Valencia is the most popular city among international employees this year, followed by Dubai and Mexico City, according to the “Expat City Ranking 2022” by Internations, a network for people who live and work abroad.

The ranking is based on the annual Expat Insider study, in which almost 12,000 employees worldwide participated this year. The report offers insights into the quality of life, settling in, working, personal finances and the “Expat Basics” index, which covers digital infrastructure, administrative matters, housing and language.

Vienna ranks 27th out of 50 cities in this year’s ranking. Although it scores very well in terms of quality of life, many expats find it difficult to settle in and make friends in the Austrian capital.

READ ALSO: REVEALED: The best and worst districts to live in Vienna (as voted for by you)

Vienna ranks last in the Ease of Settling In Index and also in the Local Friendliness Subcategory. 

Nearly half the respondents in the city (46 percent) say that people are unfriendly towards foreign residents (vs 18 percent globally), and 43 percent rate the general friendliness of the population negatively (vs 17 percent globally). 

An Australian immigrant told Internations they were unhappy with the seemingly “bad tempered locals”, while a survey respondent from the UK said they struggled to get along with the “conservative Austrians” in Vienna.

Unsurprisingly, more than half of the expats in Vienna (54 percent) find it challenging to make friends with the locals (vs 37 percent globally). Moreover, around one-third (32 percent) are unhappy with their social life (vs 26 percent globally), and 27 percent do not have a personal support system in Vienna (vs 24 percent globally). 

“I really dislike the grumpiness and the unfriendliness,” said an immigrant from Sweden.

READ ALSO: The downsides of Vienna you should be aware of before moving there

In the Quality of Life Index, Vienna snagged first place last year, but it reached only seventh place this year. In terms of administrative matters such as getting a visa for residence, Vienna is only 38th, and the federal capital also scores poorly for cashless payment options (42nd).

Where does Vienna shine?

The Austrian city ranked particularly well in categories including Travel and Transit (first place) and Health and Well-being (second place). International employees rated the availability, cost and quality of medical care as particularly good.

“I like how much you can do here and how easy it is to get around by public transport,” said an expat from the US. 

In addition, Vienna is not particularly expensive and ranks ninth worldwide in the personal finance index. 

READ ALSO: Five unwritten rules that explain how Austria works

Vienna ranks 26th out of 50 cities in the Working Abroad Index. Sixty-eight percent of expats rate their job as secure, and two-thirds rate their work-life balance positively – compared to 59 percent and 62 percent globally. However, 23 percent of respondents are dissatisfied with their career opportunities, and a third feel that the corporate culture in Vienna lacks creativity and unconventional thinking.

In the “Expat Basics” index, international employees consider housing in Vienna particularly affordable (9th). In addition, eight out of ten find it easy to open a local bank account (vs 64 percent worldwide).

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