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COVID-19

Covid-19 in Austria: Follow the latest developments as they happen

Catch up on the latest Covid-19 news and current statistics in The Local's roundup as they happen throughout the week.

Covid-19 in Austria: Follow the latest developments as they happen
People arrive at Vienna's Austria Centre for vaccinations after a lockdown was brought in for the unvaccinated and jabs were rolled out to under-12s this week. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

Overview of the Covid-19 situation in Austria

As of November 18th, the 7-day incidence rate (new infections per 100,000 people) was 991. Salzburg (1,740) has the highest incidence, followed by Upper Austria (1,591), while Styria (668) and Vienna (557) have the lowest rates but are still classed as “very high risk” by Austria’s Corona Commission. 

A total of 152,179 people in Austria were currently positive for Covid-19 on November 18th, with 2,837 people being treated for the disease in hospital, according to AGES. A total of 508 Covid patients are currently in intensive care

A total of 6,170,406 people (69 percent of the total population, and 78 percent of the population eligible for vaccination) have received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose, according to the Health Ministry, and 5,860,006 (65.6 percent) have received two doses as of November 18th.

Friday, November 19th

Austria will go into its fourth nationwide lockdown on Monday, and also announced that it will make vaccines mandatory from February next year. You can read more on this in the articles below:

The Health Ministry reported that 15,809 new cases of Covid were recorded in the last 24 hours, yet another all-time high.

And the incidence rate nationwide has now passed 1,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

It will now be possible for everyone in Austria to get their third dose of a Covid-19 vaccine from four months after their second dose.

Thursday, November 18th

The main update today is that Salzburg and Upper Austria will be introducing a lockdown for their whole populations regardless of vaccination status, starting next week. We will find out tomorrow whether the lockdown will be implemented nationwide.

Austria has tightened its Covid rules for demonstrations, meaning FFP2 masks must be worn at demonstrations or gatherings with more than 50 people, regardless of whether the participants are vaccinated against Covid or have a recent negative test.

Wednesday, November 17th

After yesterday’s lower than usual daily reported cases, today Austria hit an all-time high with 14,416 new cases reported in the past 24 hours.

Austria also tightened some of the rules for entering the country, mainly relating to the proof of negative test or vaccination that you need to show. Click here to read more.

In Vienna, 140 school classes are currently studying from home due to Covid outbreaks at school, according to city authorities.

Tuesday, November 16th

A total of 15,000 police checks were carried out yesterday on the first day of the lockdown for unvaccinated people and 120 violations, according to the Interior Ministry.

And a total of 10,363 new Covid cases were reported in the last 24 hours — a high figure, but slightly less than the numbers we’ve been seeing in recent days, albeit too early to say if this is the start of a plateau or downward trend, particularly since several regions have seen delays in getting PCR test results back.

Monday, November 15th

The leader of the far right Freedom Party (FPÖ), Herbert Kickl, has tested positive for the coronavirus, he said on his Facebook page today. This means he will be unable to take part in a demonstration against Covid-19 measures planned for later this week.

A new set of strict Covid rules come into effect across Austria from today.

Nationwide, Austria has put people without proof of 2G (full vaccination or recent recovery from Covid-19) under lockdown, meaning people in this group can only leave their homes for certain essential purposes. The move is intended to reduce the high level of spread of the virus and to push up Austria’s sluggish vaccination rate — people can avoid the lockdown by showing proof of a first dose of the vaccine together with a negative PCR test. 

One of the big questions related to the partial lockdown is how to enforce it. Police will now check for proof of 2G at regular police controls, such as traffic stops, and additional patrols will check for 2G in areas with a risk of crowding such as near restaurants or busy shopping centres.

Three regions (Salzburg, Vienna and Upper Austria) also have new sets of tougher rules which come into force today. Catch up on the current rules nationwide and regionally in our summary.

Carinthia announced stricter Covid-19 measures this afternoon, extending the FFP2 mask mandate to apply also in services requiring close physical contact (like hairdressers and salons), as well as at restaurants when not seated at a table.

Lower Austria is also tightening its rules, with an expansion of the FFP2 mask mandate to come into effect on Wednesday — according to today’s statement, details are still being worked out.

Also today, Vienna began its roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines for children aged 5-11, despite formal approval from the European Medicines Agency not being expected until next week. All the initial slots, more than 9,000 in total, have already been booked but the mayor has pledged to open up more.

One international parent in Vienna told The Local she had decided to take her children to receive the vaccine because “one of us works in a situation where protecting themselves is quite difficult, and one of our children also has a medical issue which means that a Covid infection could be very dangerous indeed for them”. Read more on the roll-out here.

How does Austria compare to its neighbours?

The chart below from Our World in Data shows how the number of reported daily Covid cases in Austria compares to those in neighbouring countries.

Note that case numbers depend on rates of testing as well as the prevalence of the virus, so this is not necessarily a true comparison of the spread of the virus in each country.

Do you have a question about Covid-19 in Austria? Contact our editorial team at [email protected] and they will get back to you and do their best to help.

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ECONOMY

From inflation to Covid: What to expect from Austria’s winter season

Austria’s lucrative winter season has already been hit by pandemic restrictions for the past two years. But this year there is also record inflation, staff shortages and an energy crisis to deal with.

From inflation to Covid: What to expect from Austria's winter season

The winter season in Austria is a big driver of the country’s economy and has been hit hard by Covid-19 restrictions for the past two winters.

But this year the industry faces an even bigger crisis – a combination of rising inflation, concerns over energy supplies, staff shortages and the pandemic (because it’s not over yet).

We took a closer look to find out how these issues could impact the industry and what we could expect from this year’s winter season in Austria.

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Inflation

Winter sports is a big guzzler of energy to operate ski lifts, apres ski venues and snow making machines. 

This means the industry is in a vulnerable position as energy prices rise, with some resort operators already confirming they will have to pass on some costs to customers.

Johann Roth, Managing Director at Präbichl in Styria, said that energy costs at the resort have tripled and admitted he is concerned about the coming winter season.

Roth told the Kronen Zeitung: “Of course we will have to increase the ticket prices, and to an extent that has never been seen in recent years.”

READ MORE: Cost of living: Why are restaurants getting more expensive in Austria?

At Planai ski resort in Schladming, Styria, Director Georg Bliem said they aim to keep the day ticket price under €70, but has also set up an energy task force to find cost-saving measures for this year. 

Suggestions for Planai include narrower slopes, reduced snowmaking capabilities, shorter cable car operating times and even a delayed start to the season.

Electricity costs at Planaibahn (the resort’s ski lift and gondola operator) were already at €3 million before the current energy crisis, according to the Kronen Zeitung.

Then there are hospitality businesses and hotels at ski resorts that are also being hit by rising costs.

As a result, the Kurier reports that room prices in overnight accommodation could increase by a further 15 percent in winter, and many people will no longer be able to afford skiing holidays.

Heating may be an issue in winter as the energy crisis looms (Photo by Achudh Krishna on Unsplash)

Energy

Rising prices are just one element of the energy crisis as there are fears that Austria will not have enough gas for the coming winter season – mostly due to the war in Ukraine.

In March, Austria activated the early warning system – which is the first level of a three-step emergency plan – for the country’s gas supply. If it reaches step three (emergency level), energy control measures will be put in place across the country.

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How this would impact ski resorts is unknown, but at the emergency level, households, essential industries and infrastructure would be prioritised for energy.

So far, there is no indication that step two (alert level) will be activated and the European Aggregated Gas Storage Inventory recently confirmed that Austria’s gas storage capacity was 60 percent full

Austria’s goal is to reach 80 percent capacity by November 1st in order to have a safety reserve.

However, Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler already appealed to businesses and households in July to start saving energy where possible.

Staff shortages

Ever since Austria (and Europe) started opening up after Covid-19 lockdowns, the hospitality and tourism industries have been struggling to find staff.

In fact, shortly before the start of the summer season in Austria, there were 30,000 open job vacancies in the tourism sector. And the Wiener Zeitung recently reported on how restaurants in Vienna are struggling to keep up with customer demand due to staff shortages. 

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The issue is even being discussed in parliament and it has already been made easier for seasonal workers in Austria to access residency through changes to the Red-White-Red card. 

Now, there are expectations of similar staff shortages for the winter season, which could cause further stress for ski resort operators.

Covid-19

Back in July, it was reported that the federal government was working on a Covid-19 contingency plan to get the country through another autumn and winter.

It envisages four scenarios – numbered from the best to the worst case. In the best case scenario, Austrians can live free of any pandemic rules. In the second best scenario, the situation will remain as it is (find out more about Austria’s latest Covid-19 rules here).

In scenario three, if new variants lead to more severe illness, the mask requirement will be expanded and more testing will be carried out.

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There could even be night-time curfews, entry tests and restrictions on private meetings. In addition, major events could be stopped from taking place and nightclubs closed.

Scenario four, the worst case scenario, would mean vaccination no longer offered protection and hospitals became overwhelmed, leading to severe restrictions on people’s social lives.

From what we’ve seen over the past two winters, scenarios three and four would likely impact winter sports operations. But to what degree would depend on the severity of the situation.

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