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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

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

Deputy leader of the FPOe and former Austrian Interior Minister Herbert Kickl. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)
Deputy leader of the FPOe and former Austrian Interior Minister Herbert Kickl. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

500 euros for vaccination bonus on the table

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said he was open to vaccination bonuses before the mandatory vaccination scheme comes into effect in 2022. 

While Covid vaccinations will become mandatory in February – with high fines forecast for those who don’t get the jab – bonuses of up to 500 euros could be on the table to encourage people to get the jab beforehand. 

‘Impfpflicht’: How will Austria’s mandatory vaccination law work in practice?

“Everything that helps us to get more people to vaccinate before the vaccination is actually mandated… sends a positive signal for our society,” Nehammer said. 

The Chancellor said it was up to the experts to devise a scheme, although he said those who have already got the jab should be rewarded as well. 

“But one thing is also clear: it can then not only affect those who are newly vaccinated, but of course also applies to everyone who was willing to be vaccinated.”

On December 27th Austria crossed the 70 percent threshold of vaccinated people, one year after the Covid inoculation campaign begun. 

New fraud allegations at Austria Vaccination Centre

A network of employees at the Austria Centre, which administers Covid vaccinations, is under investigation for having collected money to issue fake vaccination passports. 

An employee of the Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund, which administers the centre, told Austria’s Heute newspaper she had witnessed employees “collecting money from people to enter them into the system as immunised persons without a vaccination certificate”. 

“If you wanted to have your vaccination certificate forged, you had to know exactly who to talk to and which cabin to go to,” the insider said. 

It is unclear how much money was taken or how many certificates were issued. 

This is not the first such case at the Austria Centre. In June, employees at the centre had stolen stamped, non-personalised vaccination cards. 

Do Austrian hospitals need ‘protection zones’?

Austrian Interior Minister Gerhard Karner wants to set up ‘protection zones’ around the country’s hospitals due to the threat of radicalised Covid vaccination opponents. 

Karner said he did not want to restrict people’s right to protest but said health facilities needed to be “very, very vigilant” to the threat posed by “right-wing marginalised groups”. 

While the vast majority of the protests against Covid measures – including the mandatory vaccination order – have been peaceful, there are growing fears about radicalisation on the fringes of the movement. 

READ MORE: Tens of thousands protest Austria compulsory Covid jabs

Karner will hold talks on Wednesday to discuss the plan. 

Far-right politician wants study into horse medicine

Far-right Austrian politician Herbert Kickl has called for a study into horse deworming agent Ivermectin as a treatment for Covid. 

Kickl, who said the effects of Covid were “barely noticeable” for the vast majority of the population, has repeatedly courted controversy during the pandemic and is an outspoken opponent of the compulsory vaccination plan. 

Ivermectin has become popular among conspiracy theorists as a treatment for Covid, despite no evidence of its effectiveness and repeated warnings from medical experts that it should be restricted for veterinary usage. 

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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Company vaccinations start, water shortages, museums try to reduce power consumption and more news from Austria on Wednesday.

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

Company vaccinations start again in Vienna

The City of Vienna has written to around 144,000 companies in the city, calling for them to get their employees vaccinated against Covid-19. The letter comes from the Chamber of Commerce, the Medical Association and the Federation of Industry (IV). In companies with more than 50 people willing to be vaccinated, the doses can be administered by the company doctor, broadcaster ORF reports. 

READ MORE: Austria recommends fourth Covid vaccination for over 60s and high-risk patients

Water shortages in Austria

The hot and dry spring and summer means communities in Vorarlberg and Upper Austria are running out of water, broadcaster ORF reports. In Langen near Bregenz, the drinking water tanks are empty and the municipality is therefore appealing to the population to only use water for personal hygiene and as drinking water for people and animals. 

In Traunkirchen in Upper Austria, the population is also being called on to water their gardens with rainwater to save water due to shortages.

Classical concerts are safe with a two metre “baby elephant” distance

Keeping a two metre distance – the length of a baby elephant – should also be enough to attend concerts with wind instruments while avoiding being infected with the corona virus, a US research team working with a symphony orchestra has found. Scientists discovered that the amount of aerosols emitted by wind instruments was similar to those emitted by people speaking, broadcaster ORF reports. 

Austria’s museums try to save energy with lower temperatures and LED lighting

Vienna’s Kunsthaus will close for six months next summer in order to upgrade the air conditioning in order to make the building more climate-neutral. Many of Vienna’s museums have already switched to LED lighting to save energy. Now the temperature in the reading rooms of Vienna’s National Library is also to be lowered, from around 24 degrees in winter to 22 or 21 degrees. The MQ is planting mulberry trees and plans to install a photovoltaic system, broadcaster ORF reports. 

‘Lighthouse’ plan following power outages in Innsbruck

Following a huge power outage last week, which affected around 140,000 households in the Innsbruck area, the Deputy Mayor Johannes Anzengruber (ÖVP), has laid out a plan for future blackouts. The ten fire stations and the main fire station of the city of Innsbruck are to become “lighthouses” in acute emergencies, where people can go for information in the case of power cuts. In the blackout last week, traffic lights failed, trams stopped running and people were stuck in elevators. Almost nothing worked in the state capital for almost 45 minutes, the Krone newspaper report.

Sunday and holiday shop openings questioned once more

After so many people went to Praterstern Billa in Vienna on Monday it had to close temporarily, the Krone newspaper is taking a look at why shops in Austria, and particularly the country’s capital Vienna, remain closed on Sundays and public holidays. 

It notes the rules are quite confusing. Some bakeries are allowed to sell groceries such as butter, juices and milk on Sundays, but not all. Gas stations and corner shops are sometimes open, as are supermarkets at major train stations and shops in some places, such as the Museum’s Quarter in Vienna, but they are only allowed to sell selected goods. Some shops open without being aware of the rules. According to the municipal administration and the market office (MA 59), there were 255 violations of the Sunday opening in the first half of 2022, with fines running into several thousands of euros for repeat offences. Some shops were open although it is illegal, others were not aware of the rules. 

Vienna is unusual in that it is the only federal state that has no tourism zones, which gives shops the option of staying open on holidays and Sundays. According to the Krone, Vienna’s mayor’s office says the social partners will not agree to Sunday openings. The paper notes Richard Lugner, a building tycoon, has long called for the general opening of shops on Sundays, but  adds nothing will change in the near future.

READ MORE: Why everything in Austria is closed on Sundays – and what to do instead

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