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

Vienna Christmas market
Some of the first Christmas markets open today, but it comes amid a tightening of Covid rules across most regions. Photo: Alisa Anton/Unsplash
Find out what's going on in Austria today, with The Local's short roundup of the news you need to know.

Austria opens Christmas markets

We’ll start with some positive news: the first Christmas markets open today, including the Rathaus, Stephansplatz and Spittelberg markets in Vienna, with most cities set to open their markets over the coming two weeks.

Austrian Christmas markets will mostly be subject to the 2G rule this year, and in Salzburg the sale of alcohol at the markets will be banned as well (see below).

EU raises GDP forecast for Austria

The EU Commission’s forecast for Austria’s GDP growth in 2021 has improved, and it now expects a 4.4 percent increase this year, up from their predictions of a 3.8 percent rise in their spring forecast. This follows a 6.7 percent drop in 2020 so wouldn’t quite bring Austria back to pre-crisis levels, and is also below the average rise forecast for the EU of 5.0 percent, but in 2022 things are expected to even out.

Upper Austria to bring in lockdown for the unvaccinated

The major news from yesterday evening is that Upper Austria plans a lockdown for unvaccinated people only — who would only be able to leave their home under certain circumstances — pending government confirmation of the legal basis of such a lockdown. If approved, this would come into effect from Monday November 15th.

It comes a day after Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg admitted that a nationwide lockdown for the unvaccinated looked almost “inevitable” amid soaring Covid-19 infection rates in Austria that are increasingly putting hospitals under strain and putting some other medical care at risk.

New Covid rules for Salzburg too

Salzburg is the region of Austria with the second highest incidence rate and has also tightened its rules.

From Monday, restaurants and bars will only be allowed to remain open if guests are seated.

FFP2 masks will be required in more areas, including in the cultural sector, services that require close physical contact like hairdressers and salons, and at Christmas markets.

At food stalls and markets, including the Christmas markets, serving alcohol will be banned.

The full regulation, announced last night and expected to come into effect on Monday for two weeks, should be ready later today.

Tweaks to Covid rules in Vienna

Vienna has introduced some changes to its own Covid measures as of today, though not as drastic as in Upper Austria or Salzburg.

2G (proof of vaccination or recovery) will now be required at food and drink stands, such as street food providers or ‘sausage stands’ (Wurstelstand). This applies for venues where you consume your items on the spot, not for collection of food or drink to take away. 

And children aged 12 to 15 will need to show 2.5G (vaccination, recovery, or a negative PCR test no older than 48 hours) to enter venues that have the 2G rule for adults. In the rest of the country, the Ninja Pass is sufficient for this age group, which includes school test results. This age group will also have to adhere to 2G to attend events of over 500 people, while 3G is still sufficient for under-12s.

Three regions tighten Covid rules for schools

It’s a big day for Covid rule changes and schools in Lower Austria, Upper Austria and Tyrol will also see changes.

From next week, these regions will tighten rules, including an FFP2 mask mandate for students and teachers in the Oberstufe (generally for children aged 15 and older), school trips will be cancelled, and external events such as having speakers in school or parent-teacher conferences should be moved online.

Blackout exercise today

Today is the day Austria’s authorities carry out training for a potential blackout. There’s no need for ordinary citizens to worry or do anything to prepare — this is a training exercise and won’t affect the normal electricity supply. But if you see headlines in German-language media about a blackout (it’s the same word as in English), that’s what they are most likely to be about.


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