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

vienna winter street
Omicron is now the dominant Covid variant in Vienna, plus the rest of the day's headlines. Photo: Anton/Unsplash
Every weekday, The Local brings you an English-language summary of the news you need to know in Austria.

From today, restaurants have to close at 10pm

That’s an hour earlier than the curfew that was previously in place. As well as the changes for the gastronomy sector, new Covid rules in place from today mean that fewer people are allowed at events, with a different maximum limit depending on the ‘low infection risk’ proofs attendees can show (two vaccine doses or recovery, also called 2G; 2G+ which means a negative PCR test as well; or 2G+ and a third vaccine dose).

The rules now include New Year’s Eve, overriding a previous exemption to the curfew on December 31st and leading to a wave in cancellations.

These tighter measures come into force exactly one year on from the date the first Austrian residents received their Covid vaccinations.

Covid summit held today

The next so-called Gecko meeting, a summit between political leaders and medical experts, takes place in Austria today. The focus is on the impact of the Omicron variant and whether any further tightening of restrictions is needed.

However, we aren’t expecting any changes to be announced today. There is no scheduled press conference or media statement.

Before the 5pm summit, Austria’s Chief Medical Officer Katharina Reich is also holding a ‘test summit’ today to review all Covid testing offers across the country. The availability and processing time of Covid tests has varied between the regions, with Vienna leading the way in at-home PCR tests with a quick turnaround, but patchier offers elsewhere and especially in rural areas.

Omicron variant dominant in Vienna

The new Omicron variant of Covid-19 was already dominant among newly diagnosed cases as of December 26th, city health councillor Peter Hacker has said. That takes into account only those test samples where the person was judged to be actively infectious at the time of the sample.

On Sunday there were 522 active cases of Omicron in Vienna, almost double the figure from Tuesday last week.

The Omicron variant is known to me much more infectious than previous variants, but what is still unclear is whether it causes significantly milder illness.

How the Austrian population is divided over Covid vaccines

In a survey carried out for Der Standard, 95 percent of Austrians said that society was either “very” or “somewhat” divided, with 90 percent (of 800 people chosen as a representative sample) saying that there was “clear division” between people who had been vaccinated against Covid-19 and those who had not been.

This was a much more strongly perceived divide than the others which people were questioned about, with only 53 percent seeing a clear societal divide between people leaning left or right politically, and only 26 percent seeing a divide between high and low income earners for example.

Even during the Christmas holidays, protests took place over the weekend by people opposed to the Covid restrictions, with around 5,000 demonstrating in Vienna and several hundred in Salzburg.

Household energy prices rose by more than a quarter this year

Energy prices for domestic households were 26.3 percent higher in November 2021 than November 2020, with fuel and oil driving the price increase according to the Austrian Energy Agency.

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