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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‘A great day for consumers in Europe’: EU votes for single smartphone charger

The EU parliament on Tuesday passed a new law requiring USB-C to be the single charger standard for all new smartphones, tablets and cameras from late 2024 in a move that was heralded a "great day for consumers".

'A great day for consumers in Europe': EU votes for single smartphone charger

The measure, which EU lawmakers adopted with a vote 602 in favour, 13 against, will – in Europe at least – push Apple to drop its outdated Lightning port on its iPhones for the USB-C one already used by many of its competitors.

Makers of laptops will have extra time, from early 2026, to also follow suit.

EU policymakers say the single charger rule will simplify the life of Europeans, reduce the mountain of obsolete chargers and reduce costs for consumers.

It is expected to save at least 200 million euros ($195 million) per year and cut more than a thousand tonnes of EU electronic waste every year, the bloc’s competition chief Margrethe Vestager said.

The EU move is expected to ripple around the world.

The European Union’s 27 countries are home to 450 million people who count among the world’s wealthiest consumers. Regulatory changes in the bloc often set global industry norms in what is known as the Brussels Effect.

“Today is a great day for consumers, a great day  for our environment,” Maltese MEP Alex Agius Saliba, the European Parliament’s pointman on the issue, said.

“After more than a decade; the single charger for multiple electronic devices will finally become a reality for Europe and hopefully we can also inspire the rest of the world,” he said.

Faster data speed

Apple, the world’s second-biggest seller of smartphones after Samsung, already uses USB-C charging ports on its iPads and laptops.

But it resisted EU legislation to force a change away from its Lightning ports on its iPhones, saying that was disproportionate and would stifle innovation.

However some users of its latest flagship iPhone models — which can capture extremely high-resolution photos and videos in massive data files — complain that the Lightning cable transfers data at only a bare fraction of the speed USB-C does.

The EU law will in two years’ time apply to all handheld mobile phones, tablets, digital cameras, headphones, headsets, portable speakers, handheld videogame consoles, e-readers, earbuds, keyboards, mice and portable navigation systems.

People buying a device will have the choice of getting one with or without a USB-C charger, to take advantage of the fact they might already have at least one cable at home.

Makers of electronic consumer items in Europe agreed a single charging norm from dozens on the market a decade ago under a voluntary agreement with the European Commission.

But Apple refused to abide by it, and other manufacturers kept their alternative cables going, meaning there are still some six types knocking  around.

They include old-style USB-A, mini-USB and USB-micro, creating a jumble of cables for consumers.

USB-C ports can charge at up to 100 Watts, transfer data up to 40 gigabits per second, and can serve to hook up to external displays.

Apple also offers wireless charging for its latest iPhones — and there is speculation it might do away with charging ports for cables entirely in future models.

But currently the wireless charging option offers lower power and data transfer speeds than USB-C.