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

Sebastian Kurz (C), leader of Austria's People's party (OeVP) and also the party's parliamentary group leader,
Sebastian Kurz, pictured centre, could soon face the next step of investigations into alleged corruption. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP
Find out what's going on in Austria today, with The Local's short roundup of the news you need to know.

Potential changes to travel to Austria’s neighbours

There are two changes to be aware of if you regularly travel overseas. Firstly, from November 12th, travel between Austria and its neighbours Hungary and Slovenia will only be possible at the countries’ official border crossing points, with border controls being reintroduced. This does not represent a change in the documentation needed to travel; only where you can do it.

It’s also possible that Austria’s high incidence rate could see Germany label it a “high-risk area”. In that case, unvaccinated travellers from Austria to Germany would need to quarantine for at least five days on arrival.

Austria preps for a possible blackout

On November 12th, Austria’s Interior and Defence Ministries will work with several of the country’s regions on an exercise preparing for a possible blackout in the country. In particular, they will train for a scenario in which cold weather and increased electricity consumption leads to power shortages and outages.

Civilians won’t be affected; the exercise is part of a preparation based on ongoing crisis preparedness work, and is not linked to a specific threat, though authorities do believe the risk of blackouts will increase in the coming years.

In case you also want to prepare for the eventuality, the general advice for the public is to keep supplies at home such as a flashlight, first aid kit and tinned food, and to look into the emergency plans for your local area so you would know where to go for help if needed.

Ex-Chancellor Sebastian Kurz will have parliamentary immunity lifted later this month

Sebastian Kurz stepped down from his role as Chancellor amid corruption allegations, but at the moment investigations are on hold due to his parliamentary immunity. But that immunity is set to be lifted in November’s plenary on November 16th. This was widely expected, as both Kurz and his party have spoken out against the immunity, and was confirmed by a Kurz spokesperson to the Kurier newspaper. 

Austria turns ‘red’ as Covid infections continue to rise

In the weekly ‘traffic light’ update from Austria’s Corona Commission, the whole country is now red or ‘very high risk’ due to the high number of new infections. Until now, Vienna and Burgenland had been rated as orange or ‘medium risk’.

The traffic light scale doesn’t on its own trigger new measures, but these are set to be introduced anyway due to the rate of ICU occupancy — keep reading for details.

Exit tests are also being introduced in two more municipalities: Villach-Land in Carinthia and Steyr in Upper Austria.

Stricter Covid rules for Vienna and Upper Austria

In case you missed it yesterday, two Austrian regions announced significant tightening of their Covid restrictions.

In Vienna, proof of 2G (vaccination or recovery only) will be required for restaurants, cafes, hairdressers, salons, and events over 25 people from late next week.

In Upper Austria, the 2.5G rule (vaccination, recovery or negative PCR test) in all those locations plus indoor cultural and leisure facilities like theatres and cinemas, and in hospitals and nursing homes. This region also announced a vaccination lottery, where vaccinated residents will be able to enter to win prizes, and the expansion of PCR testing opportunities.

Austrian leaders meet for ‘Covid summit’

A meeting between the government and regions will take place today to work out the details for new rules needed due to the high rate of Covid patients in Austria’s ICUs, which means the country will move to level 2 in its five-stage plan.

Salzburg had been set to introduce a new Covid regulation on Monday November 8th, which would have seen a 2G rule implemented for night gastronomy (bars, night clubs, and late-night dining) and at large events. But the region’s governor said on Thursday that the region would instead wait to follow national rules expected to be introduced following today’s talks.

Vienna to offer Covid-19 vaccine to under-12s

Another major announcement from mayor Michael Ludwig was that Vienna will expand the opportunities for children aged between five and 12 to get the Covid-19 vaccine.

The European Medicines Agency has not yet approved the vaccine for this age group, but almost 1,000 children under 12 have already received it “off-label” at doctors’ offices in the Austrian capital.

Because of the high demand from parents, Ludwig said that from later this month it will be possible for children to get vaccinated at the ‘Impfstraßen’ vaccination services around the city, with children’s doctors on hand to give advice. If you’re a parent of a child in this age group, we would like to hear your thoughts on this (whether you are based in Vienna or elsewhere). You can get in touch by emailing [email protected].

Booster dose available after four months in ‘exceptional circumstances’

The National Vaccination Committee has now published its guidance on booster doses in Austria after the panel approved third doses with a six-month gap from the second dose on Tuesday.

In the new rules, it says that “in some cases” doctors may decide to offer booster doses less than six months after the second dose, for example if the person is about to go away on long-term travel, is at high risk of illness due to medical conditions, or received two doses of the AstraZeneca jab.

Time to buy this year’s motorway vignette

The stickers required to drive on Austria’s motorways was released for sale yesterday, and you can buy it online, from certain petrol stations and newsagents, as well as at toll booths and a range of other outlets — 6,000 in total. See the full list here. For 2022, it costs €93.80, or €37.20 for motorcyclists.

Even if you buy it now, the vignette is only valid from December 1st onwards.


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