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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Every weekday, The Local brings you an English-language summary of the news you need to know in Austria.

Salzburg view
Catch up on the news you need to know in Austria today. Photo: Anthony Hill/Unsplash

More protests over Covid restrictions this weekend

Demonstrators gathered in their thousands in several Austrian cities to protest the country’s restrictive policy on Covid-19 and in particular plans for compulsory vaccination.

That included around 3,500 protestors in Salzburg on Sunday, according to police, in a mostly peaceful demonstration.

What next for Austria’s restrictions?

That’s the question on the agenda this morning when the government meets with scientific experts for the first summit since the national lockdown began a week ago today.

The government has already stated its intention for the lockdown to last 20 days in total, though by law it can only be implemented for ten-day periods at a time. The extension needs to be submitted by the end of today.

As for what will happen after that — whether some parts of society will remain closed beyond December 12th or alternative restrictions like curfews introduced to curb the spread of the virus, and whether the emergence of a new Covid variant changes the plan — this is unlikely to be discussed in depth today, since the data on the impact of the current lockdown is not yet available. There is no press conference planned following today’s meeting.

There are currently more than 600 people in need of intensive care treatment for Covid-19 in Austria, which represents around 30 percent of total capacity.

Schallenberg and Kickl clash over Covid

Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg criticised the leader of the far-right Freedom Party in an interview with the Italian Corriere della Sera over the weekend, saying: “The Austrian peculiarity in the pandemic is the presence of a political force in parliament that acts against science and stirs up fears.”

“The biggest difference between Austria and other European countries is that the third largest party in our parliament is openly and vocally against vaccination and denies that this is the only way out of the pandemic,” said Schallenberg, though he acknowledged other “social and historical factors” too such as the popularity of alternative medicines in Austria’s slower vaccine take-up.

Freedom Party leader Herbert Kickl responded with a statement saying his party was not against the vaccine in itself, but in favour of “free choice”.

IN DEPTH: Why is German-speaking Europe lagging on Covid vaccines?

Austria reports first case of Omicron variant

The new variant of Covid-19, first detected in South Africa and labelled by WHO as a Variant of Concern, has been found in Tyrol. Broadcaster ORF was the first to report the news in an interview with virologist Dorothee von Laer, who said a further 30 suspected cases were also being investigated.

Meanwhile, the Lifebrain laboratory responsible for analysing tests through Vienna’s Alles Gurgelt (Everyone Gargles) programme will begin testing for the new variant. All positive tests will be sampled.

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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Hot weather today in Vienna and storms in Austria this weekend, parents wait for school information, no plans to tax profits of energy companies and more news from Austria on Friday.

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

Vienna to bake in scorching temperatures on Friday

Today (Friday) will be one of the hottest days of the year in Vienna, with temperatures predicted to soar to 37 degrees by the afternoon. During the day, clouds will form over Austria’s mountains and from midday there will be heavy showers and thunderstorms from the Silvretta to western Upper Styria. Away from the mountains it  will stay  sunny for a long time, though towards evening the chance of thunderstorms increases from Lake Constance to Upper Austria.

Over the weekend there will also be storms across much of Austria, particularly on the north side of the alps, and there will be a brisk north-east wind in the east. Temperatures will drop to between 22 and 31 degrees. 

School Covid-19 measures to be revealed on August 29th

Parents will not know what exact measures schools will take to combat Covid-19 infections in the autumn term until August 29th, when the Education Minister Martin Polaschek (ÖVP) will release guidance based on the measures taken by the Ministry of Health, the newspaper Heute reports.

As The Local has previously reported, the Austrian government has already released a four-point plan for schools the next academic year, including an “early warning system”, an advanced testing strategy, vaccination, and air purification equipment to be used in classrooms. 

READ MORE: What will the rules be for children returning to school in Austria this autumn

No plan to tax profits of high-earning energy companies 

Austria’s federal government is not planning to tax the excess profits of high-earning energy companies, although UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has accused  corporations of making “excessive” profits from the energy crisis caused by the Ukraine war and the European Parliament passed a resolution in May calling for the introduction of an excess profit tax. Finance Minister Magnus Brunner (ÖVP) has told the Wiener Zeitung newspaper that a windfall profit tax would also have affected renewable providers, broadcaster ORF reports. He believes federal states should take measures if there are unfair profits. The opposition SPÖ party continues to push for a special tax on excessively high corporate profits from energy companies. They estimate the additional income of the energy producers and suppliers at four to six billion euros.

ÖGB Trade Union Confederation calls for nationwide protests against ‘price explosion’

The Austrian Trade Union Confederation (ÖGB) is planning protests throughout Austria for September 17 – and is calling on the government to act quickly to combat inflation. 

A statement by the ÖGB states prices are “rising without end” while corporations are “reaching record profits in energy, fuel and food”. The bill would be paid by the population, and “if nothing happens now, then this will only be the beginning of the inflation wave”. That has to end now. The statement concludes: “Politicians must finally act and can no longer stand idly by and see how our lives become unaffordable.”

Few international tourists visiting Wachau region

International tourists have not returned to the wine-growing Wachau region of Austria in large numbers, broadcaster ORF reports. Although many cruise ships are now sailing along the Danube, many are only 20 percent full. Australian, American, Asian and Russian tourists have not been visiting the area since the pandemic, the broadcaster reports.

Large-scale operation because of illegal campfires on Schneeberg

According to the fire brigade, an illegal campfire led to a large-scale operation on Schneeberg in Lower Austria yesterday. The fire had spread in steep terrain. The fire brigade warns against carelessness as there was a major fire in Hirschwang last year, broadcaster ORF reports.

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