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COVID-19

Covid-19 in Austria: Follow the latest developments as they happen

Catch up on the latest Covid-19 news and current statistics in The Local's roundup as they happen throughout the week.

Covid protest Vienna
A demonstrator holds a poster reading "For our fundamental rights and liberties" during protests that have become a weekly event across Austria. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

Overview of the Covid-19 situation in Austria

As of December 17th the 7-day incidence rate (new infections per 100,000 people) was 271. Vorarlberg (500) has the highest incidence, followed by Tyrol (343), while Burgenland (150) and Vienna (219) have the lowest rates.

A total of 62,132 people in Austria are currently positive for Covid-19 as of December 17th, with 1,440 people being treated for the disease in hospital outside ICUs, according to AGES. An additional 505 Covid patients are currently in intensive care.

A total of 6,522,376 people (73 percent of the total population) have received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose, according to the Health Ministry, and 6,178,608 (69.2 percent) have a valid vaccine pass as of December 16th.

Friday, December 17th

Upper Austria ends its regional lockdown today, while four other regions see the re-opening of restaurants, hotels and cafes. Click here to catch up on the changes.

Austria extended its lockdown for people without proof of 2G for a further ten days…

…But an exception has been added so that on December 24th, 25th and 26th as well as on December 31st, up to ten people will be allowed to meet privately without a requirement for 2G proof.

The 11pm curfew for the gastronomy sector will be removed on December 31st.

Salzburg has followed Vienna in banning daytime protests this weekend.

Thursday, December 16th

The proportion of Austrian residents considered fully vaccinated has reached 69 percent (or 68.98 percent to be exact, according to Health Ministry data). Meanwhile, 3,074,367 third doses have been issued, which makes just under 34 percent of the population according to our calculation.

Protests in Vienna might only be allowed to take place in the evening following several weekends of afternoon demonstrations in the capital against Covid-19 measures.

Wednesday, December 15th

Austria’s first school has closed due to a reported case of the Omicron Covid variant after contact tracing rules were tightened this week.

There have so far been 71 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant across Austria.

Tuesday, December 14th

In a briefing from Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein today, he appealed to people to get their Covid-19 booster dose before Christmas, warning of a severe wave of the virus in January due to the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant. There are currently 59 confirmed cases of Omicron in Austria.

For people with proof of 2G, private gatherings of up to four adults from different households can take place without needing additional measures such as masks. Find out more about the current rules for socialising here.

Monday, December 13th

Today, non-essential retail as well as services like hairdressers and beauty salons re-open in most parts of the country, except Upper Austria which remains in lockdown. 2G rules (proof of vaccination or recovery) apply in these venues, as well as an FFP2 mask requirement. Catch up on the different rules here.

Although the last day of the lockdown was Saturday, Austria’s rules on Sunday closing meant today is the re-opening day for retail — although shops have been granted a rare exception to the Sunday closing rules for this weekend, December 19th.

Over the weekend, tens of thousands of protestors gathered once again in many of Austria’s cities to protest the country’s Covid measures and in particular those targeted at unvaccinated people.

Austria has significantly tightened its quarantine rules for people who have been in contact with someone positive for the Omicron variant of Covid-19. In this situation there is now a 14-day quarantine, including for vaccinated people.

How does Austria compare to its neighbours?

The chart below from Our World in Data shows how the number of reported daily Covid cases in Austria compares to those in neighbouring countries.

Note that case numbers depend on rates of testing as well as the prevalence of the virus, so this is not necessarily a true comparison of the spread of the virus in each country.

Do you have a question about Covid-19 in Austria? Contact our editorial team at [email protected] and they will get back to you and do their best to help.

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ECONOMY

From inflation to Covid: What to expect from Austria’s winter season

Austria’s lucrative winter season has already been hit by pandemic restrictions for the past two years. But this year there is also record inflation, staff shortages and an energy crisis to deal with.

From inflation to Covid: What to expect from Austria's winter season

The winter season in Austria is a big driver of the country’s economy and has been hit hard by Covid-19 restrictions for the past two winters.

But this year the industry faces an even bigger crisis – a combination of rising inflation, concerns over energy supplies, staff shortages and the pandemic (because it’s not over yet).

We took a closer look to find out how these issues could impact the industry and what we could expect from this year’s winter season in Austria.

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Inflation

Winter sports is a big guzzler of energy to operate ski lifts, apres ski venues and snow making machines. 

This means the industry is in a vulnerable position as energy prices rise, with some resort operators already confirming they will have to pass on some costs to customers.

Johann Roth, Managing Director at Präbichl in Styria, said that energy costs at the resort have tripled and admitted he is concerned about the coming winter season.

Roth told the Kronen Zeitung: “Of course we will have to increase the ticket prices, and to an extent that has never been seen in recent years.”

READ MORE: Cost of living: Why are restaurants getting more expensive in Austria?

At Planai ski resort in Schladming, Styria, Director Georg Bliem said they aim to keep the day ticket price under €70, but has also set up an energy task force to find cost-saving measures for this year. 

Suggestions for Planai include narrower slopes, reduced snowmaking capabilities, shorter cable car operating times and even a delayed start to the season.

Electricity costs at Planaibahn (the resort’s ski lift and gondola operator) were already at €3 million before the current energy crisis, according to the Kronen Zeitung.

Then there are hospitality businesses and hotels at ski resorts that are also being hit by rising costs.

As a result, the Kurier reports that room prices in overnight accommodation could increase by a further 15 percent in winter, and many people will no longer be able to afford skiing holidays.

Heating may be an issue in winter as the energy crisis looms (Photo by Achudh Krishna on Unsplash)

Energy

Rising prices are just one element of the energy crisis as there are fears that Austria will not have enough gas for the coming winter season – mostly due to the war in Ukraine.

In March, Austria activated the early warning system – which is the first level of a three-step emergency plan – for the country’s gas supply. If it reaches step three (emergency level), energy control measures will be put in place across the country.

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How this would impact ski resorts is unknown, but at the emergency level, households, essential industries and infrastructure would be prioritised for energy.

So far, there is no indication that step two (alert level) will be activated and the European Aggregated Gas Storage Inventory recently confirmed that Austria’s gas storage capacity was 60 percent full

Austria’s goal is to reach 80 percent capacity by November 1st in order to have a safety reserve.

However, Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler already appealed to businesses and households in July to start saving energy where possible.

Staff shortages

Ever since Austria (and Europe) started opening up after Covid-19 lockdowns, the hospitality and tourism industries have been struggling to find staff.

In fact, shortly before the start of the summer season in Austria, there were 30,000 open job vacancies in the tourism sector. And the Wiener Zeitung recently reported on how restaurants in Vienna are struggling to keep up with customer demand due to staff shortages. 

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The issue is even being discussed in parliament and it has already been made easier for seasonal workers in Austria to access residency through changes to the Red-White-Red card. 

Now, there are expectations of similar staff shortages for the winter season, which could cause further stress for ski resort operators.

Covid-19

Back in July, it was reported that the federal government was working on a Covid-19 contingency plan to get the country through another autumn and winter.

It envisages four scenarios – numbered from the best to the worst case. In the best case scenario, Austrians can live free of any pandemic rules. In the second best scenario, the situation will remain as it is (find out more about Austria’s latest Covid-19 rules here).

In scenario three, if new variants lead to more severe illness, the mask requirement will be expanded and more testing will be carried out.

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There could even be night-time curfews, entry tests and restrictions on private meetings. In addition, major events could be stopped from taking place and nightclubs closed.

Scenario four, the worst case scenario, would mean vaccination no longer offered protection and hospitals became overwhelmed, leading to severe restrictions on people’s social lives.

From what we’ve seen over the past two winters, scenarios three and four would likely impact winter sports operations. But to what degree would depend on the severity of the situation.

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