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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.

Austria's Vice-Chancellor Werner Kogler gestures as he speaks during a press conference. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)
Austria's Vice-Chancellor Werner Kogler gestures as he speaks during a press conference. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

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. 

READ MORE: Austria imposes quarantine on travellers from the UK and three European countries

READ MORE: Austria tightens Covid measures in response to Omicron spread

“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. 

EXPLAINED: What will change about life in Austria in 2022?

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. 

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

Austria faces 'Grüß Gott' vs 'Guten Tag' debate, Nazi material found during investigations on FPÖ, Vienna's €200 energy bonus and more news from Austria on Monday.

Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Monday
  • The ‘Grüß Gott’ vs. ‘Guten Tag’ debate

A curious debate was sparked in the Austrian parliament, newspaper Der Standard reported. 

On Wednesday, the Lower Austrian ÖVP regional manager Bernhard Ebner took his turn as a respondent during the parliamentary inquiry committee investigating alleged corruption allegations against his centre-right party. 

Ebner had begun his appearance with a “Grüß Gott”, to which SPÖ parliamentary group leader Kai Jan Krainer is said to have “briskly replicated”: “In Vienna, it’s not Grüß Gott, but Guten Tag.” The ÖVP was quick to comment that “Whoever says ‘Grüß Gott’ is now verbally attacked by the SPÖ.” 

 But what is the difference between these greetings?

‘Grüß Got’ is widespread in the Catholic German-speaking area: in Austria, in the German states of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, and in South Tyrol. Strictly speaking, it means: “God greets you”. It is similar to “Pfiat di Gott”, which comes from “Behüt dich Gott” or the Swiss “Grüezi”. Initially, these phrases meant a blessing.

The spiritual background leads to the fact that “Grüß Gott” is still used today primarily by religiously influenced, more conservative people. On the other hand, more secular, left-oriented people tend to use different formulations such as “Begrüße Sie” (Greetings) or  “Guten Tag” (Good day).

However, the way of greeting currently gives less clear information about worldview and political affiliation. “Grüß Gott” often has as little to do with religion as “Gott sei Dank” (thank God). 

Additionally, less formal forms of address, such as the more friendly “Hallo” or its English counterpart “Hi”, are steadily finding their way into everyday speech. Amicable greeting idioms such as “Griaß di/eich” or “Servus” also remain popular. 

READ ALSO: Five unwritten rules that explain how Austria works

  • Everything that’s new in Vienna in December

From new energy bonuses being sent out to important trials and major events, here are the important changes, dates and events happening in Vienna in December.

  • Nazi material found during investigations on FPÖ

During the house searches in connection with the FPÖ finance affair in Graz in October, material with Nazi connection was also seized, broadcaster ORF reported. However, it is still unclear whether the material can be attributed to former FPÖ politicians.

On October 15th, house searches were carried out at 12 addresses in connection with the financial scandal surrounding opaque money flows at the Graz FPÖ. 

At the time, the investigators were targeting former FPÖ deputy mayor Mario Eustacchio, ex-club chairman Armin Sippel, ex-finance officer Matthias Eder and three other people, party-affiliated associations and fraternities.

READ ALSO: Is Austria’s Freedom Party a ‘far-right’ party?

  • Applications are now open for the €200 Vienna energy bonus

Monday marks the official start of the Vienna Energy Bonus and households can apply for a subsidy of €200.

With this measure, in addition to the subsidies provided by the federal government, the City of Vienna wants to help the citizens of the national capital because of the increase in energy prices and living costs.

READ ALSO: Vienna Energy Bonus: How to get a €200 payout

  • Austria finishes 8-wing luge weekend in World Cup

Austria received gold medals in all five races this Sunday to finish a perfect 8-8 weekend in the World Cup luge season. The hosting country also won three races on Saturday. 

Austrians took the top four spots in the men’s singles, and Nico Gleirscher was first also in the men’s spring (with Austrian Wolfgang Kindl second in both races). Madeleine Egle won the women’s sprint, while Selina Egle and Lara Kipp won the first World Cup women’s doubles sprint race on Sunday.

Yannick Müller and Armin Frauscher won the men’s doubles sprint. 

The series now moves to North America in the coming weekend.

READ ALSO: How to save money and still go skiing in Austria

  • Weather

Screenshot from ZAMG

The snow line lies between 700m in Vorarlberg and 1400m in parts of Carinthia, Austria’s meteorologic institute ZAMG said. By evening it will also start to rain or snow in Salzburg and Upper Styria. 

In the other regions, it will remain predominantly dry until the evening. High temperatures during the day are 3C to 8C.

If you have any questions about life in Austria, ideas for articles or news tips for The Local, please get in touch with us at [email protected].