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

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

vienna winter street
Omicron is now the dominant Covid variant in Vienna, plus the rest of the day's headlines. Photo: Anton/Unsplash

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

Rent prices are up, Austria to block Romania and Bulgaria from Schengen, e-prescription approved and more news from Austria on Thursday.

Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Thursday
  • Rent prices rise in Austria as fuel costs drop

Rent prices in Austria have risen at the fastest rate since quarterly figures were introduced in 2004, according to the latest data from Statistics Austria, as The Local reported on Wednesday.

In the third quarter of 2022, the average price for rent (including operating costs) rose to €8.8 per square metre per month. This was 3.1 percent higher than in the second quarter and seven percent higher when compared with the same period in 2021.

But the highest rent increase was in municipal housing, where costs rose by 3.8 percent to hit €7.5 per square metre. 

Meanwhile, the ÖAMTC has revealed that the fuel price in Austria decreased in November (compared with prices in October).

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What will happen to Austria’s property market in 2023?

  • ‘Kur’: The alternative treatments you can get from a doctor in Austria

In Austria, prevention and self-recovery play a big part in the healthcare system. Here are some alternative treatments that might not be prescribed elsewhere.

  • Europe to welcome Croatia to Schengen – but bar Romania and Bulgaria

Austria is expected to oppose the entry of Bulgaria and Romania into Europe’s control-free travel zone, the Schengen area, several media reported. Applicant countries need the approval of all 26 member countries, which Croatia should get on Thursday.

The Schengen zone allows for control-free travel, abolishing border checks between its territories, but member states such as Austria have criticised it as illegal immigration rises. 

Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) had said earlier this week that Austria would oppose the entry of Romania and Bulgaria into Schengen.

“We need more time. At the moment, we have 75,000 unregistered illegal migrants in Austria – meaning they have crossed an external EU border and made it to Austria. This needs to be solved first,” he said.

READ ALSO: What is Vienna’s MA 35 doing to offer better service for immigrants in Austria?

  • Green light for e-prescription for private medicine

In future, private prescriptions will be issued electronically with the e-prescription system, the newspaper Die Presse reported. 

This was decided by the Health Committee of the National Council on Wednesday evening with the votes of the ÖVP, the Greens, the SPÖ and the Neos. 

The extension of the e-prescription affects all privately paid medicines, such as contraceptives. Doctors will then be able to prescribe all drugs electronically in one treatment procedure – regardless of whether the health insurance fund pays for them. 

Then, patients can collect their medicines from pharmacies using the e-Card without presenting a paper prescription.

READ ALSO: Everything foreigners need to know about the Austrian healthcare system

  • Not all ski resorts can start, as snow cover is still too thin

Schladming and some other areas have been operating since last week in Steiermark. Numerous other ski areas had planned to start the new season on Thursday – but this is only possible in some places, broadcaster ORF reported.

Many smaller areas still have to wait: Wenigzell in Joglland, for example, postponed the start of the season to 17th or 18th December – the snow cover is currently around ten centimetres thick.

Also in Mönichwald, there is hardly any snow at the moment. Therefore the start will be postponed by one week there as well, said manager Andreas Schwengerer: “Due to the weather forecast with snowfall and temperatures around minus ten degrees, we are sure that we can finally start the season around December 17th.”

READ ALSO: Where are the best places to go skiing in Austria?

  • Weather

Screenshot from ZAMG

From Lower Carinthia over Styria to eastern Lower Austria, mostly clouds and initially a little rain or snowfall is to be expected, Austria’s meteorologic institute ZAMG said. 

In the afternoon, however, the precipitation will largely subside in these regions. It will be mostly sunny weather everywhere else in Austria. However, over the foothills of the Alps, there will be some persistent fog.

The snow line will be from 400 to 700m above sea level and the wind will be mostly light. Afternoon temperatures are 1C to 6C.

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].