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

Austria's new Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg
Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg announced new Covid rules on Friday night, plus the rest of the Austrian news you need to start your week. Photo: Johanna Gerona/Pool/AFP
Find out what's going on in Austria on Monday, with The Local's short roundup of today's news.

How Austria plans to tighten its Covid measures

In case you missed it, on Friday evening the government announced plans for tougher restrictions in the event that Covid-19 has a severe impact on healthcare, including increasing the current three-stage pandemic plan to add a further two stages.

At the newly introduced level 4 (500 intensive care beds occupied), negative tests would no longer be accepted as entry proof for restaurants, hotels and large events — also called the 2G rule (geimpft or genesen; vaccinated or recovered). And at level 5 (600 intensive care beds occupied), the country would introduce a lockdown for unvaccinated people. Level 3 of the plan was also updated, so that at this stage PCR tests would be the only valid test proof, rather than accepting antigen tests.

Austria is currently at level 1 with fewer than 300 intensive care beds occupied, but in the past week has seen a very sharp rise in new cases.

Tourism industry in need of seasonal workers

Last week, the government announced new rules for winter tourism, but many employers in the industry say they will struggle to hire enough staff, with the Chamber of Commerce warning that Austria could be short of 20,000 seasonal workers.

Board member of the JUFA hotels group Gerhard Wendl told the ORF broadcaster that the Styria region in particular was reliant in workers from nearby Hungary, where Russia’s Sputnik vaccine was used, and said the group was calling for this to be expected as proof of vaccination for seasonal workers.

Other potential factors in the shortage include working conditions as well as national quotas on the number of non-EU workers who may come to Austria for jobs in the industry, which are restricted. 

Austria to legalize assisted suicide

Austria’s government on Saturday set out its plans for legalizing assisted suicide from 2022 in response to a court ruling, which found that the current ban violated fundamental rights. Two doctors will have to assess each case, one of whom will have to be qualified in palliative medicine, and they will be responsible for assessing whether the person in question came to the decision independently.

Here’s a look at how Austria’s plans compare with the laws in place elsewhere.

Campaigners protest ‘discrimination’ against HIV-positive people

Campaign organization Aids-Hilfen has called for Austria to change its criminal law so that HIV-positive people who take regular and effective therapy are not assumed to carry a risk of transmitting the virus, so that they can be excluded from criminal liability. In the past, people who are HIV positive have been at risk of prosecution even in cases where they did not transmit the virus and where they took regular therapy that reduced their viral load enough not to pose any risk, the organization says.

Free flu jab booking starts in Vienna today

From October 25th, it’s possible for anyone who lives or works in the Vienna region to book their free winter flu vaccine, with the appointments starting from November 2nd. The region is offering the vaccine for free for the second year running, with the aim of reducing the spread of seasonal flu to reduce pressure on the healthcare sector and protect those at risk of serious illness from Covid-19 and influenza.

Austria did not have a significant flu season last year due to the lockdown measures in place, but that’s expected to change in 2021.

Climate ticket launches today and tomorrow (depending on where you are)

Austria’s nationwide Climate Ticket, allowing holders to travel cheaply on most nationwide trains, launches tomorrow — which happens to be a national holiday.

But the regional version, for people in Vienna, Lower Austria and Burgenland, launches a day early so holders can start using it today.

It can be bought online at www.klimaticket.at and at all ÖBB and Westbahn counters. Since it first went on sale at the start of the month, more than 70,000 climate tickets have been sold.


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