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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

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

Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Friday
Interior Minister Karl Nehammer (far left) is expected to take over as Chancellor after the departures of People's Party leader Sebastian Kurz (second from right) and Finance Minister Gernot Blümel (far right). Photo: Alex Halada/AFP

Kurz is leaving politics: What are the reactions?

Die Presse called it “the end of a phenomenon”, saying youthful Kurz had been a “beacon of hope” for a revival in his conservative party.

Several publications described the end of an era, with public broadcaster ORF calling it a “short but turbulent and incisive era”.

His predecessor Reinhold Mitterlehner said to the Tiroler Tageszeitung: “After careful consideration, Kurz had to realise that he would not be able to lead the ÖVP in any election in the medium term. And he had to realise that with every extra day in office he was damaging the party.”

“Kurz’s career as a politician has failed, the party has to take its fate into its own hands again,” was the claim of a column in Der Standard.

And a few questions remain open, the biggest being how the government will change as a result. On that note…

Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg and Finance Minister Gernot Blümel also quit

Finance Minister Gernot Blümel announced his resignation from politics on Thursday evening, saying he was prompted to do so by the birth of his second child and by Kurz’s announcement. Like Kurz, there is an ongoing corruption investigation against Blümel.

And Kurz’s successor, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg, also announced that he was leaving his post.

This means a big reshuffle of the cabinet is expected, and we should learn more today after the ÖVP party board meets. A press conference is scheduled for 11.30am, and we will have more updates for you then. Interior Minister Karl Nehammer is tipped by many experts to be the next Chancellor.

Austria is reviewing contact tracing regulations

The recommendations for people who have contact with a positive Covid case are being reviewed due to concerns over the new Omicron variant, the Health Minister said on Thursday, confirming earlier reports from the Kronen Zeitung.

We don’t know the details yet, but one possibility is that fully vaccinated people who share a household with someone infected with Covid-19 will be required to isolate. At the moment, people in this situation are ‘category 2’ contact people, which means no isolation requirement but a recommendation to reduce your contacts.

Franco-Austrian Covid jab under EU review

A Covid-19 vaccine developed by Franco-Austrian biotech company Valneva is being assessed by the European Medicines Agency with a view to roll it out. The EU has already ordered close to 60 million doses.
 
Europe’s drug watchdog launched an accelerated review on Thursday of a Covid-19 vaccine by Franco-Austrian biotech firm Valneva, for which the EU has already signed a deal for up to 60 million doses.

And more Covid news

The whole country remains red or ‘very high risk’ in the latest review from Austria’s Corona Commission, although the commission’s risk number (based on several factors including incidence rate, hospitalisation rate and others) for each region is sinking. The commission recommends a “cautious” re-opening when the lockdown ends on December 12th. Based on the commission’s risk numbers, eastern Austria (Vienna, Burgenland and Lower Austria) is in the best position while Tyrol and Carinthia are at highest risk.

Meanwhile, the recent protests against restrictions and against the planned vaccine mandate have led police in Lower Austria to strengthen their presence outside hospitals, ORF reports. One medical director told the broadcaster that relatives visiting patients had been insulted by demonstrators, and leaflets had been left on hospital employees’ cars comparing them to Joseph Mengeles, a Nazi war criminal who carried out medical experiments on concentration camp prisoners.

And experts in Austria estimate the national immunity rate at around 71 percent, up from 61 percent at the start of November. That’s based on simulations and includes immunity from vaccines and previous infections, taking into account the fact immunity weakens over time.

Some ski seasons start today in Austria

December 3rd marks the opening of ski seasons in several parts of Austria, with Covid-19 restrictions in place. This means you’ll need proof of 2G (vaccination or recovery) for most ski lifts, gondolas and indoor areas, and an FFP2 mask in enclosed areas. Restaurants and bars are closed under the lockdown but can offer food and drinks to take away.

Some of the first ski resorts to open include Ischgl, Hochzeiger and Axamer Lizum in Tyrol, Bad Kleinkirchheim, Gerlitzen, and Turrach in Carinthia, Hochkar in Lower Austria, Hinterstoder in Upper Austria, and Gargellen in Vorarlberg, all set to kick off the season today.

Civil servants given an average pay rise of 3 percent

That’s the result of three rounds of negotiations between the union and employers (in this case, Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler). It affects around 225,000 people directly means civil servants on lower incomes will get a 3.22 percent wage increase from January 1st, and higher earners will get 2.91 percent extra.

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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Five dead in severe storms and trains disrupted, pension increase discussed, Covid-19 risk falling and more news from Austria on Friday.

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

Severe storms lead to deaths of five people, including two children, in Austria

Severe storms, including gusts of wind of up to 140 km/h, swept across Austria on Thursday afternoon. Sadly five people – including two children – died in Carinthia and Lower Austria. Several people were injured, some seriously. In Styria, especially in Graz, the thunderstorm caused much damage and caused massive power outages that affected thousands of homes. ÖBB  stopped running all trains in Carinthia, East Tyrol and Styria during Thursday afternoon.

READ MORE: Five people dead after violent storms hit Austria

The Frequency Festival was also temporarily closed due to the storms.

According to the Österreichischen Unwetterzentrale (Austrian Severe Weather Centre) there is a red severe weather warning level in four of the nine federal states early on Friday morning. Heavy rainfall is expected as well as thunderstorms and hail.

READ MORE: Austria heading into a rainy and cooler weekend after heatwave peak

Plan to create stream in Ottakring area of Vienna to combat overheating

A 40m stretch of asphalt is to be turned into a stream in Ottakring in a pilot project which could be extended, using streams and waterways to create more cool areas in Vienna. The first watercourse in the ProBach project will flow between the youth center, Alt-Ottakring church and Heurigen. Trees should then be planted along the stream which could cool the nearby streets, broadcaster ORF reports.

Pension increase of at least 5.8 percent

Pensions are expected to increase by at least 5.8 percent in Austria due to the current high rates of inflation. The increase will be calculated using inflation figures ​​from August 2021 to July 2022. As Statistics Austria has calculated, the adjustment figure is expected to be at least 5.8 percent, broadcaster ORF reports. However, there are calls for politicians to do more to help pensioners with the cost of living increases.

Gas ordinance amended to combat shortages

The Gas Market Model Ordinance 2020 has been amended by the Austrian energy regulator E-control to ensure that there is an uninterrupted supply of gas to the country’s power plants. The strategic gas reserve may be used to ensure that the pressure in the gas network does not drop in the event of a delivery stop. Gas consumers with high output are also obliged to register for the trading system (FlexMOL) as a precautionary measure so that they can then trade gas volumes more quickly in an emergency.

In Tyrol and Vorarlberg, which are not connected to the Austrian gas network but are supplied via Germany, a new regulation states that gas  withdrawn from the Haidach and Seven Fields storage facilities should be returned at the border. An agreement between Austria and Germany will be signed to this effect, broadcaster ORF reports. 

READ MORE: ENERGY CRISIS: Will Austria have enough gas for winter?

Companies run by people from outside Austria add billions to Vienna’s economy

As The Local reported on Thursday, companies run by Viennese people with a migration background add around 8.3 billion euros annually in terms of business for the Austrian capital according to  a survey by the Chamber of Commerce. These companies also create around 45,500 jobs in Vienna alone, and generate around ten billion extra euros of business throughout Austria.

READ MORE: How migrants contribute to Vienna’s economy

Fees increase for water, waste disposal and parking tickets in Vienna

The City of Vienna is increasing the fees for water, sewers, waste disposal and parking ticket prices, it was announced on Thursday. The tariffs for municipal services are being adjusted in Vienna on the basis of the Valorisation Act in force.

At mid-year, it is checked whether the consumer price index has risen by three percent or more since the last increase – which it has. The adjustment will take effect in early 2023.

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