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

Find out what's going on in Austria today, with The Local's five-minute roundup of the news you need to know.

Vienna Opera Ball
The Vienna Opera Ball, shown in February 2020. This year the iconic events are again allowed, but many are expected to be cancelled. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

No breach of official secrecy by civil servant

Christian Pilnacek, a senior civil servant at the Justice Ministry, was acquitted on charges of breaching official secrecy in Vienna’s criminal court yesterday.

The charges related to Pilnacek passing on information about an investigation by the Economic and Corruption Public Prosecutor’s Office (WKStA) into a journalist from the Die Presse newspaper, but judges ruled this did not breach either public or private interests because there was no urgent reason for keeping the information confidential.

The judgement is not final and there are other investigations still underway against Pilnacek, including over allegations that he shared information about criminal proceedings, informing an Austrian investor about a planned house search ahead of time.

Strictre Covid measures for Upper Austria and Vienna?

Upper Austria is currently the area with the highest Covid incidence rate, and the region is expected to announce stricter Covid measures later today, according to Austrian media reports. 

Among the likely measures on the table are an increase in PCR test offerings, a vaccination lottery like the one offered in Burgenland (where vaccinated residents stand a chance of winning prizes), and a 2.5G rule (no antigen tests accepted) for several areas which are currently 3G. Burgenland announced that it had on Wednesday achieved its target of administering an extra 10,000 vaccine doses before November 11th and getting 81 percent of the eligible population vaccinated.

Vienna’s mayor will also be meeting with experts today to discuss possible new measures. The capital already has stricter Covid rules than the rest of the country, and these are currently set to remain in place until the end of November. 

Tomorrow, the heads of Austria’s regions will meet with the Health Minister to discuss the nationwide plan, which may mean that we’ll see some standardisation of the rules which currently vary on several points from region to region.

Another 2021 record for new daily infections

A record number of new daily infections, 6,506, were recorded in the 24 hours leading up to Wednesday. Government data from late October shows that 90 percent of symptomatic cases are in unvaccinated people, with around one in four people in Austria who are eligible for the Covid jab having chosen not to get it.

Gloomy outlook for Viennese ball season

November means the start of the ball season in Vienna, but the majority of the events had to be cancelled last year. Although the 2021 season is currently set to go ahead, things don’t look entirely promising.

The events are permitted as long as they adhere to Covid rules, but some balls including those planned for hunters and pharmacists (balls are often organised by professional groups but anyone can buy tickets) have been cancelled already. According to ORF, the Vienna Chamber of Commerce expects only around half the usual number of balls to take place this winter.

Austria dominates ranking of Europe’s best ski hotels

A ranking of Europe’s ski resort hotels from Pisten Hotels, a German-speaking booking platform, named the three best as Hotel Schneider in Obertauern, Vital-Hotel Post in Dienten, and Hotel Enzian & Zirbenspa in Obertauern, all in the Salzburg region.

Of the 50 top ranked hotels, based on reviews from Pisten Hotels’ own users as well as reviews submitted via Google, TripAdvisor and HolidayCheck, the majority (41) were located in Austria.

Innsbruck’s restaurant terraces to stay open through winter

This is allowed following a regional vote allowing bars and restaurants that already have an outdoor dining area to keep this in operation through December and January (with heaters allowed to be installed), as long as it doesn’t interfere with the Christmas markets. The goal is to support the hospitality industry and give people more chances to socialise in a lower-risk way.

Metalworkers strike over pay

A fourth round of negotiations between the metalworkers’ union and employers didn’t lead to any progress, with the metalworkers asking for a 4.5 percent pay increase. So-called ‘warning strikes’ began in 50 companies yesterday, with around 300 more set to join them today and on Friday.

In Austria, there is no national minimum wage, with wages instead set by collective agreements between unions and employers.

Heavy snowfall in western Austria

October was a dry month in Austria with less than half the usual precipitation, but that’s set to change.

A cold front is expected to bring rain and some snow to western Austria, particularly Carinthia and eastern Tyrol, with up to 40 cm of snow in the mountains (above 1,500 metres). In Tyrol, snowfall even led to road closures this morning, with the A13 temporarily closed after several vehicles got stuck.

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