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

Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg
Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said there was "no end date" for restrictive measures for those who have not yet had the Covid vaccine. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP
Every weekday, The Local brings you an English-language summary of the news you need to know in Austria.

Electricity will cost more next year in Vienna, Upper Austria and Burgenland

Starting from January 1st, an average household with annual electricity consumption of 3,500 kilowatt hours (kWh) per year can expect to pay €12-13 more per month (including VAT) for their electricity due to rising prices globally. This is according to EnergieAllianz, which represents Wien Energie, EVN and Energie Burgenland.

Whether you’ll be affected depends on your electricity provider and your tariff, while the exact amount you’ll pay will also depend on your electricty consumption.

These are not the only Austrian providers to be hiking their rates: in the past few weeks, Energie Steiermark and Energie Graz announced price increases of 7.9 percent each, meaning around €5 extra per month for their average customer.

Nursing home workers lost job over anti-Covid restrictions protest

The deputy mayor of Linz said that several employees of retirement homes in the city have lost their jobs after marching in the demonstration against Covid measures in Vienna. The reason is that they held banners saying “Senior Centers Linz say no to mandatory vaccinations”.

Deputy Mayor Karin Hörzing said that while the right to freedom of assembly and freedom of speech are not in question, “it is not acceptable if personal opinions are conveyed in a way that implicated the employer”. She said that the banner did not represent the stance of the care homes, for which she is also the chairperson of the board, and added that the banners could harm the company’s efforts to protect residents through a high vaccine rate.

Agreement reached for retail employees’ wages and working conditions

A new collective agreement has been reached for retail workers after three rounds of negotiations. This affects more than 400,000 workers across Austria, around a third of them employed by supermarkets and grocery stores.

The key points are an average 2.8 percent salary rise: salaries for salespeople and those starting out will increase from €1,740 to €1,800 per month, which is a 3.45 percent rise, and for other workers the increase is 2.55 percent, and 2.8 percent for apprentices. That follows an average 1.5 percent increase last year, but comes in the context of high inflation. In addition, nighttime work (until 5am) will see 50 percent extra pay.

Retail workers’ union calls for earlier closing times during lockdown

Should essential shops close at 7pm during the lockdown? That’s what retail union GPA is calling for, arguing that it is a necessary safety precaution for shop employees, particularly women, to feel safer returning home on emptier than usual dark winter streets. 

“Although retail employees are the largest professional group in Austria, they are regularly forgotten by the Ministry of Health,” union chairperson Barbara Teiber said.

School classes to switch to distance learning following a second Covid infection

If two cases of Covid-19 are confirmed within the same school class, the whole class should switch to distance learning for at least five days, the Ministries of Education and Health said on Tuesday.

This comes amid the ongoing confusion over rules and recommendations for schools during the current lockdown. So far, the decision of whether to send a class into quarantine has rested with local health authorities as part of contact tracing. But the huge number of infections has put contact tracing systems under severe strain, which meant this was happening in different ways in different regions, with Salzburg for example only ordering the infected child to stay home. 

According to data from AGES, the incidence rate among children aged six to 14 reached 2,426 new cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days, making them the most severely affected age group.

319 victims of femicide in Austria in 11 years

This is according to a study cited by Women’s Minister Susanne Raab during an ongoing summit on protecting women from gendered violence. Raab said that 28 women have already been murdered in gendered attacks in Austria this year.

In most cases, the perpetrators were men, and in around 80 percent of cases, they were known to their victim.

And the latest Covid-19 updates

More than 3,000 people — 3,153 according to the data from AGES — are in Austria’s hospitals for Covid-19. Of those, 583 are in need of intensive care treatment. Salzburg’s intensive care units are now close to full capacity with 45 Covid patients, resulting in four intensive care patients being transferred to Vienna by helicopter.

AGES data shows a strong link between an area’s vaccination rate and the current number of Covid-19 cases: the eight districts with a 7-day incidence (new infections in the past seven days per 100,000 inhabitants) over 2,000 all have low vaccination rates. The districts with the highest vaccination rates, for example Oberpullendorf (75.82 percent) and Eisenstadt – surrounding area (74.41 percent) in Burgenland and Mistelbach (75.41 percent) in Lower Austria all have incidence rates well below the national average.

In parliament yesterday, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said there was currently “no end date for [lockdown measures for] unvaccinated people”.

But what will things look like for vaccinated people after the 20-day lockdown? Virologist Christoph Steininger told the Kurier that he “is not very optimistic” life will return to normal for this group either, given the current intensive care situation.


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