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Austria’s beaches ‘second cleanest in Europe’

Bathing waters at more than four out of five beaches in the European Union are of "excellent" quality, with Cyprus, Austria and Greece topping a European Environment Agency list published on Tuesday.

Austria's beaches 'second cleanest in Europe'
A man carries a paddle board on the dock of a hotel in Grundlsee. Photo: BARBARA GINDL / APA / AFP

A total of 82.8 percent of the 22,276 bathing sites studied across Europe in 2020 had “excellent” water quality, while 92.6 percent met the minimum standard, “sufficient”.

These figures are about two percentage points below those for 2019, the EEA said, attributing it to a greater number of beaches where no data was collected last year due to the pandemic.

The lack of data mainly affected Poland and Britain, which is still included in the report for 2020 despite Brexit.

Water quality continues to improve in Europe, with only 1.3 percent of sites reporting “poor” water quality, compared to 1.4 percent in 2019 and almost 2 percent in 2013.

READ MORE: Austrians world’s best at baring all on the beach

Under EU rules, bathing water sites that have been classified as “poor” for five consecutive years are slapped with a permanent ban.

Cyprus was the only country to register a perfect score in the 2020 standings, with 100 percent of its bathing sites boasting “excellent” water quality, ahead of Austria (97.7 pct), Greece (97.1 pct), Malta (96.6 pct) and Croatia (95.1 pct).

They were followed by Germany (89.9 pct), Italy (88.6 pct), Spain (88.5 pct), Belgium (79.7 pct) and France (77.5 pct).

Around two-thirds of bathing sites in the EU are located along sea coasts, which are generally cleaner, and one third are located inland.

According to the EEA, the percentage of European bathing waters achieving at least “sufficient” quality increased from just 74 percent in 1991 to over 95 percent in 2003, and has remained relatively stable since then.

The number of bathing sites in the European Union has nearly quadrupled in the past 30 years due to the expansion of the EU and the growth of the tourism and leisure industry.

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TYROL

Will Austria start vaccinating children against Covid?

The European Medicine Agency (EMA) is expected to approve the Biontech and Pfizer vaccine for everyone over 12 years old on Friday, but it will be up to individual European states such as Austria to decide if they wish to start vaccinating children. 

Children in the US are already receiving vaccinations against the coronavirus (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP)
Children in the US are already receiving vaccinations against the coronavirus (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP)

Austria’s Ministry of Health has advised that children should be vaccinated once the EMA approves the vaccine, with the country’s health minister Wolfgang Mückstein telling Der Standard newspaper, that if the vaccine was approved by the EMA, it meant it was “highly effective and safe”.

“I would also vaccinate my daughters with it,” he is reported to have said.

He also announced on Friday he wanted to vaccinated the largest possible number of children aged between twelve and 16 by the end of August.

Pediatrician Albrecht Prieler, who is a member of Austria’s National Vaccination Committee (NIG) said it was important children should be protected with a Covid-19 vaccination as soon as possible. He said even if if Covid-19 was usually milder in children, there was still a “residual risk” of a severe course, adding without vaccinating children it will “never be possible” to achieve herd immunity, according to the Wiener Zeitung newspaper.

Vaccine hesitancy may affect rollout

This would mean an additional 340,000 young people could be eligible for vaccination in Austria. But how easy will it be to persuade this group and their parents, that vaccination is the best option?

One stumbling block to vaccinating most children aged over 12 may be vaccine scepticism amount the Austrian population. While a recent survey by the University of Vienna found that the willingness to vaccinate had increased during 2021, Der Standard newspaper noted Austrians are not the biggest advocates of vaccinations, especially when it comes to children. 

More concerns over vaccines for children in Austria

The Wellcome Global Monitor study in 2018 showed Austrians often rejected statements such as “vaccinations for children are safe” (rejection rate 22 percent) or “it is important that children are vaccinated” (rejection rate 12 percent).

In neighbouring Germany,  Health Minister Jens Spahn has stated that he intends to offer vaccines to younger children.

Vienna already allows children aged 12 and over to register for a coronavirus vaccination. In the capital vaccinations are expected to start for children in June. In Styria, vaccinations for this group will be offered in July and August, supplies permitting. Tyrol and Vorarlberg have also pledged to vaccinate children at some point “during the summer” 

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