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

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

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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