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

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

Covid protest Vienna
More protests are planned in Vienna today against the Covid-19 restrictions and mandatory vaccination plan. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

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

Authorities looking to curb illegal racing, energy prices rising, traffic expected ahead of the extended weekend and more news from Austria on Friday.

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

Vienna wants to take action against speeding drivers

The City of Vienna is looking for ways to deal with illegal races across its street, especially in its 19th-Döbling district, where accidents happen too often, daily Der Standard reported.

Some measures have already been taken, including adding concrete guard walls in parking lots where racers meet and adding a 30km/h speed zone.

Now, Viennese authorities want changes in laws at a federal level, specifically a way to legally confiscate cars in cases of serious infractions or multiple offences.

READ ALSO: What happens if you get arrested in Austria?

Rising energy costs

Austrian households paid 45 percent more for energy in June than in the same month the year before, Die Presse says. The prices of fuels, heating oil and gas have risen sharply. Wood pellets and firewood are also more expensive.

When it comes to electricity and gas, many providers are also increasing prices.

In addition to the gas crisis, other factors also affected the price of electricity: drought in large parts of Europe reduces production in river power plants. Besides that, many nuclear power plants are not in operation due to technical defects; others have to be throttled because the rivers used for cooling lead were either too warm or had too little water.

“The high prices are a signal for diversification towards more wind power, photovoltaics, and geothermal energy and at the same time, more energy efficiency and energy saving”, Austria’s Energy Agency said.

READ ALSO: Cost of living: Austria’s postal service announces prices increases

Austria wants to reopen its embassy in Baghdad

Austria is looking to reopen its embassy in Iraq by September 1st, daily Kurier reported. The Austrian ambassador left Baghdad in January 1991, with other Western diplomats, due to security reasons.

According to the Kurier, the embassy in Baghdad is now to be “housed in a protected, international area as a first step”, with security forces hired locally. The authorities believe permanent representation in the country will be a “decisive advantage” for Austrian companies and organisations.

Additionally, a specific officer in the embassy should inform Vienna of “current developments and the prevailing situation in Iraq” and, in particular, any news on the topic of migration.

READ ALSO: MAP: Who are the foreigners in Austria?

Traffic and troubles for the extended weekend ahead

Austria’s ÖAMTC expects heavy travel on the country’s transit routes ahead of the long weekend and warned motorists to expect traffic jams and queues by the borders.

The transport club said many travellers continue to drive south while some are already driving in the opposite direction returning from vacation. The extended weekend due to the Monday holiday (Mariä Himmelfahrt) also favours day trips and short breaks, especially with the nice weather forecast.

The worst traffic should be divided into Sunday and Monday, ÖAMTC warns.

READ ALSO: ‘Bad and hasty drivers’: Your verdict on scrapping Austrian autobahn speed limits

Heat and thunderstorms this Friday in Austria

Though the day starts sunny in most of Austria, the afternoon should bring showers and thunderstorms, especially above the mountains. In the east, it should be more stable and sunny, Austria’s meteorologic agency ZAMG said. Afternoon temperatures will be between 22C and 27C.

During the evening hours, the rain will subside and dry weather generally prevails. Low temperatures will be between 8C and 17C.

“In Vienna, sunny weather prevails, even if clouds seem denser. Short rains cannot be ruled out”, ZAMG says. Afternoon temperatures will be around 27C. The night will be around 16C.

READ ALSO: Wild weather in Austria: How to protect yourself during summer storms