Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Thursday
Every weekday, The Local brings you an English-language summary of the news you need to know in Austria.
Stricter rules and curfews: A recap
On Wednesday, Austria put in place stricter entry rules and an earlier curfew, which will apply from December 25th.
The stricter entry rules apply to the UK, Netherlands, Denmark and Norway, all of which have prevalent Omicron infections.
Arrivals from those countries will have to quarantine, unless they have had a booster vaccination.
Tighter domestic rules will also come into effect from December 27th, including an earlier curfew for bars and restaurants (10pm instead of 11pm) and smaller groups at events.
“Not the year for New Year parties”
Austrian Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler said on Thursday that the threat of the Omicron variant should deter people from celebrating New Years with friends.
Kogler said the government wanted to keep the stricter rules at bay until after Christmas to ensure people could celebrate with family and friends, but a tightening before Silvester parties was unavoidable.
“These are rules based on life. We want to make Christmas possible for families. "
"Unfortunately, this is not the year for New Year's Eve parties.”
Omicron dominant in Austria by early January, to reach record highs by end of the month
Austria’s Covid forecast consortium believes the Omicron variant will become dominant in Austria in mid-January, while the country will see record high infection rates by the end of the month.
With Omicron able to spread between two and three times as fast as Delta, the commission assumes "that the Omicron variant will become dominant within a few weeks and, if the increase continues unchecked, could exceed the previous high of daily new infections in January 2022".
The commission however said that hospitalisation rates were likely to be lower due to the fact 70 percent of the public now are either fully vaccinated (including booster) or have recently recovered from the virus.
Millions of vaccine doses to expire in Austria
Aid organisation Doctors Without Borders (MSF) calculates that 10.2 million doses of Covid vaccine will be out of stock by the end of March, 2022.
A major reason for the wastage is the amount of Astra Zeneca still in stock, which is now rarely administered across the country.
The vaccines have a comparatively short shelf life, of six to nine months.
MSF estimates that even if vaccination rates pick up dramatically until then - which is likely given Austria’s compulsory vaccination plans - there will still be a significant wastage of vaccine.
While Austria has already donated 2.2 million doses abroad, donating already delivered doses abroad is difficult due to bureaucratic issues and storage problems.