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

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

Screens projecting hygiene measures to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic can be seen outside the city hall in Vienna (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)
Screens projecting hygiene measures to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic can be seen outside the city hall in Vienna (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Austrian Chancellor says he will not resign

Public prosecutors are investigating Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz for allegedly making false statements during the parliamentary inquiry into the Ibiza scandal.

The Constitutional Court VfGH has ordered Kurz to hand over additional email evidence to the inquiry. The Chancellor has given an interview to the ZiB2 programme in which he denies the charges and says “Of course I will not resign”. 

READ MORE: Austria’s chancellor facing investigation over false statement to MPs

Fast economic recovery predicted for Austria by European Commission

 The European Commission is projecting a fast post-pandemic economic recovery in Austria, with 3.4 percent growth expected in 2021 and 4.3 percent for 2022, Der Standard newspaper reports. The Austrian recovery is driven by exports and a recovery of domestic consumption, although the recovery of tourism is more difficult to predict, the newspaper says.

Climate proofing needed for construction sector, unions claim

Trade and business unions from the Austrian construction sector are calling for a large-scale, €140 billion climate-proofing project for housing and public buildings, to avoid fines for exceeding CO2 targets, Die Presse newspaper reports. 

Testing strategies for May 19th opening vary across Austria

The different states of Austria are coming up with ideas to allow people to carry out tests before accessing hotels, restaurants, sport and events when Austria opens up on May 19. As yet there is no central platform to register the tests throughout Austria. 

  • Salzburg and Upper Austria have announced they will make “living room” tests available as are currently used in Vorarlberg, in which people can test themselves at home and then register the tests in an online portal using a QR code. 
  • Upper Austria will make 20 self-test sets with QR codes available per month on Tuesday and use a website to register the test. 
  • Styria plans to administer more antigen tests, and says around 750,000 a month will be available  in Graz, for example. On May 18th and 19th there will be extended opening times in the test stations until 8pm and in Graz until 10pm . 
  • Vienna will continue to rely on its ‘Alles Gurgelt” gargle test programme. A registration app for restaurants is promised by the Chamber of Commerce

READ MORE: Austria: What are Vienna’s coronavirus gurgle tests?

READ MORE: What can Austria learn from Vorarlberg allowing indoor dining and events from Monday

Border traffic relaxed between Bavaria and Austria

The borders have been open to day trippers between Bavaria and Austria since midnight. Those crossing the border must show they have been vaccinated, tested or recovered from Covid-19, and the relaxation only applies to travelers who have only stayed in Germany or Austria in the past ten days. Tyrolean governor Günther Platter has also called for easing of restrictions of border traffic between Tyrol in Austria and South Tyrol, which is in Italy. 

Landing ban extended for India, South Africa and Brazil

Aircraft from the virus mutation areas India, South Africa and Brazil are not allowed to land in Austria at least until the beginning of June. The current landing ban, which would have expired next Tuesday, has been extended to June 6th. 

READ MORE: Austria to impose landing ban from India amid variant concerns.

Lower Austria to go ‘orange’

Lower Austria will join Burgenland as rated “orange” by Austria’s coronavirus traffic light commission. Orange is still “high risk” for coronavirus transmission but lower than red, which is defined as “acute” risk. 

READ MORE: Explained: How does Austria’s coronavirus traffic light system work

Seven day incidence at 89

The seven-day incidence, or the number of new infections with the coronavirus in the past seven days per 100,000 inhabitants, is 89.1 according to the AGES database. The number is highest in Vorarlberg (152.6) and Styria (120.2). The number is lowest in Burgenland at 47.5.

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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.”