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

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

Tulips blossom in front of the Karlskirche in Vienna. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)
Tulips blossom in front of the Karlskirche in Vienna. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Widespread refusal of AstraZeneca vaccine, according to survey

A new survey by opinion pollster Peter Hajek suggests 73 percent of Austrians would refuse the AstraZeneca vaccine, amid doubts about the vaccine’s safety, the Kurier newspaper reports.

Around 31 percent would also refuse the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for similar reasons.

Around 27 percent consider it unlikely that they would get vaccinated against Covid-19 at all, with the willingness to get vaccinated is rising.

Explained: Can you choose which Covid: 19 vaccine to take in Austria? 

No more testing requirement for vaccinated people 

Vaccinated people will no longer need access tests after Austria opens up on May 19th. Legislation will be passed to this effect by The National Council later today, broadcaster ORF reports.

The broadcaster reports exemption is expected to come three weeks after the first jab.

UPDATED: How to register for the Covid-19 vaccine in your Austrian state

Over 50s can book vaccine appointments in Lower Austria

From today, people aged over 50 can register for a vaccine appointment in Lower Austria, broadcaster ORF reports. On Wednesday it will be the turn of everyone from the age of 40, and on Friday everyone from the age of 30. Next Monday, everyone over the age of 16 will be able to book an appointment.

READ MORE: Lower Austria first state to start vaccinating all members of the public

READ MORE: Covid-19 vaccines in Austria: When will I be able to book my appointment?

Vienna and Lower Austria end hard lockdown 

Vienna and Lower Austria have ended their hard lockdown on Monday, meaning the whole of Austria is under the same restrictions, with the exception of Vorarlberg, which has opened up restaurants and events.

The “hard” lockdown in Vienna and Lower Austria lasted more than a month. Now people in Vienna and Lower Austria can leave their homes without a reason and two households with a maximum of four adults can meet again.

Non-essential retail, hairdressers and other “body-hugging” services are also open again. Museums and zoos have opened up and there will be no outdoor mask requirement, broadcaster ORF reports. 

Company vaccines begin

Around 10,000 companies in Vienna have started vaccinations against the coronavirus today due to a collaboration between the City of Vienna and the Vienna Chamber of Commerce.

The companies involved were able to register here, nominate a vaccination coordinator and assign their employees to five different risk categories.

First are employees at increased risk of infection such as hospital cleaning staff, and people forced to travel for work, then employees with contact with members of the public, such as supermarket staff.

Workers in offices without “structural protection” are next and last are people who are not at risk from their work, broadcaster ORF reports. 

Seven day incidence at 154.5

The seven-day incidence, or the number of new infections with the coronavirus in the past seven days per 100,000 inhabitants, is 154.5 according to the AGES database. The number is still highest in Vorarlberg (235.4) and lowest in Burgenland (98.2).

Ibiza scandal inquiry continues

 The parliamentary inquiry into the 2019 Ibiza scandal is set to continue this week, centering around corruption allegations against former deputy chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache and others, according to the Kronen Zeitung.

Public prosecutors have reportedly not analysed the 19,000 private chats between Strache and members of the FPO due to a lack of resources. The OVP party has criticised the delays in the investigation.

READ MORE: Austrian far-right leader resigns over ‘Ibiza affair’

Slovakia PM to visit Vienna

Slovakia PM Heger is expected to visit Vienna on Tuesday to discuss bilateral relations with Austria as well as Austrian-Czech-Slovak relations, Die Presse reports.

The paper notes the main topic of contention between Heger and Austrian Chancellor Kurz is likely to be Austria’s desire to stop the construction of new nuclear power stations in neighbouring states.

Budget prospects ‘improving’ according to finance minister

Finance Minister Bluemel sees initial improvement in Austria’s state budget prospects, according to the Kronen Zeitung newspaper. Although revenue from tax and other sources is down 17 percent compared to the same time last year and state spending remains high due to COVID-19 aid programmes, Bluemel emphasised that consumption is rising, indicating increased consumer confidence.

ATX stock market  showing upswing

Austrian stock market ATX has been showing steady improvement since November, despite the pandemic’s effects on the general economy Der Standard newspaper reports. The upswing was initially based on the promise of coronavirus vaccines but now increasingly driven by a desire for high-dividend shares in a low-interest market.

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VIENNA

Everything that’s new in Vienna in December

From new energy bonuses being sent out to important trials and major events, here are the important changes, dates and events happening in Vienna in December.

Everything that's new in Vienna in December

Vienna will send €200 bonuses to help cushion rising energy costs

The City of Vienna announced more government assistance to cushion rising costs for residents.

Viennese households will receive €200 in a new “energy bonus’, as The Local reported. The administration said the bonus would benefit about two-thirds of all city homes.

Single households with a gross annual income of a maximum €40,000 or multi-person households with an income of up to €100,000 gross per year are entitled to receive the payment. 

In December, every household in the capital should receive an information letter with a password they will need to use for an online application for the bonus. Once applied for, the money should arrive within a few days”.

READ MORE: Vienna Energy Bonus: How to get a €200 payout

Influenza vaccination appointments

The City of Vienna has made available 64,000 influenza vaccination appointments for December in the city’s vaccination centres and those of the ÖGK. 

The City is investing a total of €9.9 million to be able to offer the flu vaccination campaign in Vienna free of charge again this year.  The campaign will run until the end of the year unless an extension becomes necessary due to high demand.

The influenza vaccination campaign focuses on people aged over 65. This avoids multiple exposures to Covid-19 and the “real flu”. Chronically ill people, children and health or care workers are also among the priority target groups. However, influenza vaccination is also recommended to all other people.

READ ALSO: Reader question: How to get a flu vaccination in Austria?

Vienna starts inquiry committee over Wien Energie

Starting on December 2nd at the Vienna City Hall, the City Council’s investigative commission on the Wien Energie case will meet every two weeks.

On the initiative of the centre-right Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), it will investigate the events surrounding the dramatic financial needs of Wien Energie that became known in the summer. The commission can summon people to testify and request documents.

They will focus on two issues.

The first concerns the extent to which Mayor Michael Ludwig and City Finance Councillor Peter Hanke have exercised their ownership rights regarding Wien Energie, which is wholly owned by the city via Wiener Stadtwerke. Specifically, the commission wants to know whether the two SPÖ politicians reacted in time and appropriately to the price increases in the electricity markets in the summer.

The second matter revolves around Ludwig’s emergency powers as head of the city, with which he granted Wien Energie loans totalling €1.4 billion. It is to be clarified whether this procedure was legally compliant and whether Ludwig should have informed committees such as the City Senate earlier.

READ ALSO: Why did Wien Energie ask for €6 billion from the Austrian government?

Terror trial continues

On November 2nd, 2020, a jihadist terrorist shot dead four people and injured more than 20 in the centre of Vienna before police forces killed him.

Now, the country is going through a complex trial involving six men who allegedly helped the shooter prepare for the attack started. The process first started in October, as The Local reported, but a final verdict is not expected until at least February.

In December, tricky trial stages are scheduled, including questioning people suspected of having sold weapons to the terrorist.

READ ALSO: Austria starts trial over Vienna jihadist shooting

Armed police officers stand guard by the area where the terrorist attack took place in Vienna, Austria on November, 2020. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

This Human World Festival

The This Human World Festival is celebrating its 15th anniversary and it focuses on the theme of human rights. In four Viennese cinemas (Schikaneder, Topkino, Gartenbaukino, Stadtkino) and two other venues (Brunnenpassage, Brotfabrik) you can watch films that deal with human rights, current conflicts and crises from December 1st to 11th. 

About 90 feature films, documentaries and short films await you – some of them will celebrate their Austrian premiere at the festival. 

The aim of the film festival is to draw attention to political and social grievances in a sensitive, stirring and occasionally humorous way.

You can read more about the event HERE.

Harry Potter: The Exhibition

“Harry Potter: The Exhibition” is touring worldwide and the major exhibition about the wizard’s universe will get its first European location in Vienna on December 16th, 2022. The show will be housed in the METAStadt in the 22nd district (Dr.-Otto-Neurath-Gasse 3).

The ticket sale has already started on the official site of the exhibition and via oeticket. Tickets are available from € 24.90 for children (up to 12 years) and € 29.90 for adults (from 13 years).

Weihnachtsmärkte

Last year, many markets around the country were cancelled after a snap lockdown in November, although some events still went ahead with strict rules in place.

But this year, the Christmas markets are back in full swing without restrictions, so make sure you visit one (or two) to really get into the Christmas spirit. Austria’s most famous markets are in Vienna, like the Christkindmarkt in front of the Town Hall that runs from November 19th to December 26th.

The Viennese markets are drawing in thousands of tourists to the Austrian capital. Don’t miss out on all the Glüwein (even if it is more expensive this year), geröstete Kastanien and Weihnachtskugeln you can get. 

FOR MEMBERS: IN PICTURES: A guide to the main Christmas markets in Austria

Public holidays

Besides Christmas (December 25th) and Stephan’s Day (December 26th), December 8th, when Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Mariä Empfängnis), is also a public holiday in Austria.

Of course, there are also several celebratory dates in December. For example, every Sunday until Christmas is an Advent Sunday, and Austrian families commemorate it in many ways, including lighting up candles.

On December 4th, there is Barbaratag, while on December 5th, Krampus pays his visit to Austrian villages and cities. On the next day, December 6th, it’s time for St Nikolaus to bring chocolate and tangerines to children who were nice during the year.

Christmas Eve, Day, and St Stephen’s Day (December 24th, 25th and 26th) are important dates for Austrian traditions.

It’s also worth noting that Austrians celebrate Christmas on the evening of December 24th, usually with a family meal.

READ ALSO: Austrian Christmas traditions: The festive dates you need to know

New Year celebrations

Expect lots of fireworks on New Year’s Eve (Silvester) in Austria – and especially in Vienna.

In the capital, the bells ring out at St. Stephan’s Cathedral to welcome in the New Year, which is also broadcast on national television. This is followed by fireworks and some even take part in a communal waltz on Rathausplatz in front of the Town Hall.

But if you really want to celebrate New Year like an Austrian, then give a marzipan pig to your nearest and dearest. The little pigs represent a good luck charm and are handed out every year on New Year’s Eve.

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