Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Monday

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

Sepp Rieser, owner of the herd, watches decorated cows with bells and flowers before leaving their summer pastures during the annual ceremonial
Cows in Tyrol's Karwendel Alpine nature park near Pertisau, Austria. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

Disagreement over easing steps

Disagreement continues within Austria’s governing coalition about the next steps to take to ease coronavirus restrictions, according to broadcaster ORF. Chancellor Kurz has announced likely easing steps regarding face masks and social distancing measures in shops ahead of a meeting with state governors scheduled for May 28th. However, Health Minister Mückstein indicated the announcement had not been coordinated with him and that he advised greater caution, noting that some restrictions were likely to remain in place until the end of the year.

Seven-day incidence at 48

The seven-day incidence, or number of infections per 100,000 people, continues to fall and is now 48. The federal state with the highest seven-day incidence is currently Tyrol with 72.9, followed by Vorarlberg, Upper Austria and Styria (72, 55.2 and 54.2, respectively). Carinthia (46.1), Vienna (43.7), Lower Austria (37), Burgenland (30.9) and Salzburg (24.9) also follow.

Upper Austria opens vaccinations for everyone over 16 years of age

Upper Austria has opened vaccinations for all age groups from today. For the time being, those who have already registered have priority. From May 29th, all other Upper Austrians over the age of 16 can book an appointment directly. Another new feature is that when you register, you can find out which vaccine will be used at the respective appointment.

Masks until winter?

Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein (Greens) has told the Kleine Zeitung newspaper that people will still have to wear a mask until winter, especially when indoors. However, the mask requirement outside may be up for debate. 

Border controls to the Czech Republic and Slovakia lifted

Austria lifted the temporary reintroduction of border controls with the Czech Republic and Slovakia on Saturday morning. However, there will still be controls in place for people who cannot prove that they have been exclusively in Austria or their home country within the last ten days. They must present evidence they have tested negative, been vaccinated against or recovered from the coronavirus, or take a test within 24 hours. Those testing negative must quarantine for five days. 

According to the Ministry of Health, countries with a low incidence of infection are currently Andorra, Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Finland, France, Liechtenstein, Greece, Ireland, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, South Korea, Czech Republic, Hungary and the Vatican.

Austria supports Western Balkans’ EU accession

The Foreign Ministers of Slovenia, Austria and the Czech Republic, Anže Logar, Alexander Schallenberg and Jakub Kulhanek visited Tirana on Sunday, where they met with their Albanian counterpart Olta Xhaçka and emphasised their support of EU enlargement to the Western Balkans.

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said he hopes talks can begin as early as June. Schallenberg also indicated that Austria believes it is in the “strategic interest” of member states for the EU to expand not just to include Albania and North Macedonia, but also Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Serbia, the Kronen Zeitung reports. 

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Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Monday

Forest fire extinguished, winter to test power grid, police warn of telephone frauds and more news from Austria on Monday.

Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Monday

Forest fire extinguished after days

A forest fire that was first reported on Friday in Serfaus, Tyrol, was extinguished on Sunday afternoon with the help of several fire brigades and mountain rescue, broadcaster ORF said.

A lightning strike probably caused the fire, the authorities said. The dry weather and extreme heat in Austria make it challenging to contain forest fires and increase their likelihood.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Austria banned everyone from the forest for 123 years

Fewer kids leaving schools for homeschooling

The number of “school-leaving certificates” that allow children to deregister from school for home education has significantly decreased, daily Der Standard said.

A total of 4,601 children were deregistered from school by the end of the deadline this year, according to the Ministry of Education. In the previous school year, there were around 7,500 withdrawals from classes.

Austria has no mandatory school, but kids need to receive an education. Therefore, children can attend home lessons or go into private education not regulated by public law. Last year, many parents chose to take their kids from school amid the coronavirus pandemic and the school restrictions and regulations.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Is homeschooling legal in Austria?

Winter will test Vienna’s power grid

Vienna has gone through some power shortages recently, including affecting the amusement park in Prater, where people were stuck on rides and had to be rescued.

Experts fear that power shortages will become more common in connection with the heat, according to ORF. Blackout and crisis prevention expert Herbert Saurugg told the broadcaster that the climate crisis and increased infrastructure damage would pressure the Austrian capital’s power grid. Especially as people resort to electric heaters in winter when gas supply could be cut, the report added.

Vienna’s electricity state-run company, Wiener Netze, is more optimistic. “We have a security of supply of 99.99 percent and we are constantly renewing our electricity grid and expanding it to meet future requirements”, spokesman Christian Call said.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Should I buy an electric heater in Austria this winter?

Police warn (again) of telephone fraud

The police say they are seeing a sharp increase in fraudulent calls, with criminals trying to scam people into sending them money or giving them private information, according to ORF.

There are several scams, including “fake cops”, when fraudsters call the victims pretending to be from law enforcement. They often say that a gang is planning robberies in the neighbourhood or that the victim’s bank is being investigated for corruption. Regardless of the story, the goal is the same: get the victim to surrender their belongings for “custody” or send the “police” money.

READ ALSO: Austrian police warn public about new ‘fake cops’ scam

Volatile weather with mild temperatures

In general, the day is a bit volatile with some clouds and, at times, a few showers, especially from east Tyrol to southern Lower Austria and the Graz region, Austria’s central for meteorology and geodynamik ZAMG said.

Some thunderstorms can happen throughout the country, but the sun may also shine in regions. Afternoon temperatures should stay between 22C to 28C, with the highest temperatures in the west.
In Vienna, the day starts with some clouds and light rain, but they dissipate during the day, bringing back the sun. Afternoon temperatures are around 25C.

READ ALSO: Austrian heatwave: Six tips to get a better night’s sleep