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

Cafe Korb in lockdown
AFP/ Alex Halada
Find out what's going on today in Austria with The Local's short roundup of the news.

Virologist says lockdown ‘no longer working’ in Vienna and Lower Austria

The Innsbruck scientist Günter Weiss, believes the lockdown in Vienna and Lower Austria is no longer effective.

He said people had not changed their behaviour enough in the most recent lockdown to control infections. The lockdown is due to end May 2nd, and the expert advocated opening steps in May, broadcaster ORF reports. 

One million extra Pfizer doses for Austria

EU Commission President von der Leyen has announced the EU is purchasing an additional 50 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine. For Austria this means one million doses delivered earlier in the second quarter, according to the Wiener Zeitung newspaper.

Contents of Chancellor’s phone messages to be revealed?

Opposition parties looking into the Ibiza scandal in Austria’s U-Committee (the SPÖ, NEOS and FPÖ) have asked Austria’s  Constitutional Court (VfGH) for access to Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s work mobile phone and the SMS, WhatsApp, iMessage, Telegram and signal messages on it.

The Constitutional Court will declare that the Federal Chancellor should comply, broadcaster ORF reports. 

READ MORE: What you need to know about Austria’s Ibiza-gate video

FPÖ MPs criticised for travelling to Paraguay on ‘diplomatic’ visit

Austria’s ÖVP (Austrian People’s Party) has criticised a trip to Paraguay made by FPÖ (Freedom Party of Austria) politicians, which they claimed was a “diplomatic” visit. 

ÖVP Bundesrat chairman, Karl Bader, said it was a “slap in the face of those people who have supported all the measures in lockdown for a year”. 

Paraguay is in the list of countries with a travel warning due to the coronavirus infection rate, he said. The trip was reported by the Kronen Zeitung newspaper on Wednesday.

While visiting Paraguay the MPs voted via video conference against the mask requirement in the Austrian Parliament, broadcaster ORF reports. 

EU money for green and digital projects

Austria has submitted its plan for the European reconstruction fund, according to the Wiener Zeitung newspaper.

Chancellor Kurz made the announcement on Wednesday after the Council of Ministers. It is estimated that €3.5 billion will go to projects, with a focus on digitisation and greening. In the past few weeks, the opposition had repeatedly criticised Austria for submitting its plans too late. 

Weaknesses in Austria’s labour market exposed by pandemic, OECD reports

The OECD (Organisation for economic cooperation and development) warns the pandemic has exposed weaknesses on the labour market in Austria, Wiener Zietung newspaper reports.

These are shortcomings in the digital sector, many long-term unemployed and comparatively few women working full-time on the labor market, according to the OECD paper “Going for Growth 2021: Shaping a Vibrant Recovery”, the outlet reports.

End of the combustion engine in Austria?

Eco-tax reform for Austria could include switching to production of only electric cars from 2025, according to a study from the scientist Gerd Sammer and experts from the Road-Rail-Transport Research Association, Der Standard newspaper reports. 

The study says the 15 year service life of cars means if the goal of climate neutrality by 2040 is taken seriously by the government, from 2025 only fossil-free cars should go into operation, explains Sammer. Petrol costs could rise and cars have to pay road tolls based on distances travelled, according to the study. 

Construction boom in Austria

State aid in Austria has created a building boom and price increases, with entrepreneurs saying construction costs have risen by up to 15 percent.

The higher construction costs completely eat up the investment premium and higher prices generate more tax revenue, Die Presse newspaper reports.

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