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

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

The Hofburg

‘No relief’ for intensive care units 

Austria’s traffic light commission has made a risk assessment showing there will be no relief for the intensive care units for the next two weeks.

For this reason, all federal states and in particular Vienna, Burgenland, Lower and Upper Austria, are advised to continue to take measures in hospitals to cope with the system critical situation.

However, coronavirus cases are falling in Burgenland, Styria and Salzburg the Wiener Zeitung newspaper reports. Vorarlberg, the only Austrian state to open up its restaurants and events, is seeing a rise in infections. 

Seven day incidence is 227

The seven day incidence or number of new infections with the coronavirus in the past seven days per 100,000 inhabitants, is 227.3 according to the AGES database.

The number is still highest in Vienna (321.1), followed by Lower Austria (232.3) and Salzburg (223.3). The value is lowest in Vorarlberg (137) and Styria (175.5).

Delays to AstraZeneca deliveries

The Austrian Ministry of Health says this week’s delivery to Austria of 50,932 AstraZeneca vaccination dose will arrive late on Monday April 12 and will contain only 26,400 doses, Der Standard newspaper reports. Biontech and Moderna deliveries will continue as planned.

New coronavirus appointments to become available 

As The Local reported yesterday, Vienna is making more than 100,000 new coronavirus vaccination appointments available today (Friday).

Those who have registered will be contacted regarding the appointments via email or SMS. Appointments will be available for people over 65 years of age, high-risk patients aged 18 and over, people with disabilities and contact persons of pregnant women.

READ MORE: Vienna to make more than 100,000 new vaccination appointments free from Friday

Concerns Austria will miss deadline for billions of EU funding

Austria could receive €3.5 billion of funding from the EU development fund the Wiener Zeitung newspaper reports. The deadline for submitting reform and resilience plans is 30 April.

The paper says in Austria there is “widespread concern” this date could be missed, as little is known about the submissions.

The EU Commission says talks are ongoing with Austria on a technical level, but Austria is one of the few EU countries that has not yet submitted anything in writing. 

Micro businesses lose billions in sales 

Around 250,000 domestic businesses in Austria experienced a decline in sales of €7.7 billion last year Der Standard newspaper reports.

The decline in sales in 2020 was 7.3 percent in nominal terms and nine percent in real terms, it reports.

Hardest hit were photographers, fashion and clothing technology, arts and crafts and hairdressers, podiatrists, beauticians and masseurs.

Christina Enichlmair from SME Research Austria says it is the worst sales development since the beginning of the economic survey in 1981.

Labour minister says pandemic has ‘accelerated change”

The Wiener Zeitung newspaper features an interview with Austrian Labour minister Kocher in which he says the pandemic has accelerated change, creating new jobs in digitisation and STEM.

He says 44 percent of jobseekers have only completed compulsory schooling and more training is needed. He hopes by summer Austria can reach an unemployment level of 330,000 to 350,000 people

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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”