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

Covid protest Vienna
More protests are planned in Vienna today against the Covid-19 restrictions and mandatory vaccination plan. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP
Every weekday, The Local brings you an English-language summary of the news you need to know in Austria.

Applications open for another round of aid for businesses 

Austria’s Härtefallfond (Hardship Fund) is open for another round of applications for help from business owners affected by the consequences of the pandemic.

To be eligible, you need to have lost out on income between November 2021 and March 2022, with at least a 30 percent loss in November and December and at least a 40 percent loss from January onwards. You also need to have founded your business on November 11th, 2021 at the latest. If you are eligible, you should receive at least €1,100 for November and December and €600 for the months after that, and up to €2,000 depending on the level of your losses.

Applications are made via the Chamber of Commerce. According to the Finance Ministry, almost a quarter of a million business owners in Austria have been helped by this aid during the crisis. Click here to find out more and make your application, from 10am Wednesday morning.

Lockdown extended but shops will open on Sunday December 19th

The government yesterday officially extended the lockdown for an extra ten days, meaning December 11th will be the final day. This was expected but needed to be done, since Austria’s Covid laws only allow the government to implement lockdown for a ten-day period at a time.

If the pandemic situation post-lockdown allows for shops to open, the government wants to give non-essential retail businesses the chance to open on Sunday, so businesses and customers have the chance to catch up on Christmas shopping and lost turnover during the lockdown. The union said the one-off exception should not be seen as a move towards Sunday opening more generally.

Retail workers who opt to work on this day will earn double pay plus an extra day off.

Inflation reaches highest level since 1992

In November, inflation in Austria reached 4.3 percent, the highest level in almost 30 years, according to initial estimates from Statistik Austria. That’s up from 3.9 percent in October. Rising energy prices were a big reason for the increase.

Austrian data shows how vaccines lower the risk of hospitalisation from Covid

Data from clinical trials and countries around the world has shown us that the Covid-19 vaccines are highly effective in preventing severe illness and hospitalisation from the illness.

For the first time, AGES has analysed real-world Austrian data and found that the Covid vaccines offer protection of around 95 percent in preventing hospital admission from the virus. This was based on data on vaccination and hospital admissions in Vienna and Vorarlberg. The protection rates were slightly higher for AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna than for Johnson & Johnson, and the protection rate was around 95 percent in all age groups studied (over 18s only).

More Omicron cases confirmed in Austria

According to authorities in Lower Austria, a case of the new Covid variant Omicron has been confirmed in the region in a person who was already in quarantine. There are several more suspected cases in more Austrian regions, and it follows the first confirmed case in Tyrol.

More Covid demonstrations in Vienna today

A demonstration is planned for 3pm today in Vienna, with around 2,000 participants expected. Parts of the ring road and Franz-Josefs-Kai will be closed off until 7pm. The protest is scheduled to move from Maria-Theresien-Platz over the Ringstraße to Franz-Josefs-Kai and then back to Maria-Theresien-Platz. Motorists association ÖAMTC has warned motorists and public transport users to expect potential delays getting to the city centre.

Yesterday, Interior Minister Karl Nehammer warned protestors not to let extremists take advantage of the crisis and protests to cause violence, saying that Covid provided extremists with the “opportunity of the century”. He reaffirmed the right to demonstrate, but called on protestors to avoid violence and the anti-Semitic imagery and slogans that have been seen at recent protests. 

“We all want our freedom back,” said Nehammer. “But the way to get there is not through violence, but through vaccination.”

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