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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

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

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What's going on in Austria today? Photo: Patrick Robert Doyle/Unsplash

Supermarkets and shops to close at 7pm

Starting from Thursday, Austria will enter the second half of its nationwide lockdown.

Most of the rules will stay the same, but one change is that shops will have to close at 7pm, whereas currently they can stay open until 9pm. This was a request from a retail workers’ union, as The Local previously reported. It applies to the shops that are currently allowed to stay open, such as supermarkets, pharmacies and other shops for basic supplies.

First details of draft mandatory Covid vaccine law

Austrian daily Die Presse has had access to a draft of the law on mandatory vaccines, which is expected to be officially presented in early December.

The draft reportedly sets out fines of up to €7,200 for people who refuse the Covid-19 vaccine without a valid medical exemption. That would come if someone was issued a €3,600 fine twice.

The law would apply to everyone resident in Austria (not just citizens), but there would be a few exemption categories, including pregnant women. According to the draft seen by Die Presse, the mandate would apply from the age of 12.

But nothing is fixed yet, and the Health Ministry said on Monday that several different versions are currently in the works. The government is holding talks on the plans this morning, with a press conference scheduled for 11am.

Energy prices on the rise

Energy prices for domestic households were almost 23 percent higher in October than a year earlier.

Heating oil was 60.8 percent more expensive, diesel 34.8 percent more, gas 15.6 percent more and electricity 9.6 percent more, according to the energy price index (EPI) from the Austrian Energy Agency. Some providers have already announced planned increases to their tariffs, with others expected to follow suit from early next year.

Austrian opposition calls for lockdown to end a week early

The NEOS (The New Austria and Liberal Forum) has said that retail should reopen to people with proof of 2G from December 6th, with the party’s economic spokesperson calling the lockdown “a bit much” in comments to media on Monday.

Take this with a pinch of salt — the party is the smallest in Austria’s parliament.

The NEOS have also backed calls from the Chamber of Commerce for retail to be granted an exception to Austria’s strict Sunday closing laws on the two Sundays during the advent period.

Austrian appointed as WHO’s European crisis manager

Austrian Gerald Rockenschaub has been appointed Director of Health Emergencies in the European Region of the World Health Organization (WHO).

“I am very pleased that an Austrian doctor and public health expert has been appointed to this senior position in the WHO,” said Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein.

Salzburg Schokolade goes bankrupt

The company said that the impact of the pandemic and rising prices of raw materials were to blame. The news affects around 140 employees.

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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Heatwave peaks today, Lake Neusiedl at record low levels, calls to increase mileage allowance, expert advises on fourth Covid-19 jab and more news from Austria on Thursday.

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

Current heatwave will peak today

The current heatwave will peak in the east today (Thursday). It could reach 37 degrees today, and will be followed by a deluge of rain. It has been above 30 degrees every day since last Saturday in Austria. 

Water shortages vary across Austria

The situation with water shortages varies across Austria following this year’s long dry summer. The situation is particularly precarious in Burgenland, where  Lake Neusiedl is currently 114.94 meters above the level of the Adriatic Sea. This is the lowest water level since records began in 1965. The Seewinkel has also been hit hard, according to broadcaster ORF .

However, in Vienna the water levels are low in the Wienerwald streams and the Danube, but not extremely so.

IN PICTURES: How drought and extreme heat are affecting Austria

New allegations against Hygiene Austria

A new scandal has hit Hygiene Austria and Palmers, the company which produces Austria’s FFP2 masks. The Standard newspaper alleges that Palmers may have carried out  tax evasion, using fake receipts. Up to 693,000 euros of customs and import sales taxes may have been evaded, the paper claims. Palmers and Hygiene Austria reject the allegations.

The company previously hit the headlines after ordering masks from China which it mislabeled as “made in Austria” during the pandemic. 

Possible reductions in energy bills for Altbau

There are plans to reduce gas bills for people renting an Altbau, or old buildings, which often fall under rent control laws. The Ministry of Justice, led by Alma Zadic (Greens), is looking into how a price reduction for gas heating for people could be implemented. Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler has pointed out tenants have no power to change their heating systems and suffer from high bills as a result. Kogler also intends to create incentives for apartment building owners and landlords to convert to renewable heating systems, broadcaster ORF reports.

Calls to increase mileage allowance in Austria

The GPA union is calling for the Kilometergeldes (mileage allowance ) to be increased from the current 42 to 60 cents. This is a lump-sum payment for costs incurred when you use your own car for business trips. According to GPA chairwoman Barbara Teiber, speaking to ORF, there hasn’t been an adjustment for inflation for 14 years. 

READ MORE: How to save money on fuel costs in Austria

Recommendation to get fourth Covid-19 jab before autumn wave

According to the vaccination expert Herwig Kollaritsch, people should get their fourth vaccinations now before Covid-19 starts to pick up again with the start of school, full workplaces and cooler temperatures. He said the new CoV variants BA4 and BA5, meant people have less immunity following an infection. If the last vaccination was six months ago, he would now recommend getting a fourth jab. It is up to the individual to decide if they want to wait for the new modified vaccine which targets the Omicron variant, which was recently approved for use in Great Britain as people risk becoming infected while waiting for the vaccine, broadcaster ORF reports. 

READ MORE: When should you get your fourth vaccine dose?

Pension increase to be announced today

The government is set to announce the statutory pension increase today (Thursday). The increase is expected to be at least 5.8 percent. Negotiations will start next week on whether there will be full cost-of-living adjustments or not. Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler (Greens) has previously said that the government could add another two to 2.5 percent to the around 5.8 percent. However, this would still mean that it would be below inflation.

READ MORE: Why (and when) double-digit inflation is set to hit Austria

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