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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

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

Herbert Kickl
Herbert Kickl, leader of the far-right Freedom Party, has been accused of minimising the Holocaust in recent comments comparing Covid tests in schools to Nazi persecution of Jewish children. Photo: Alex Halada/AFP

Will Austria shorten its Omicron quarantine?

Several countries have shortened the length of time people have to quarantine after contact with someone positive for Omicron and calls to do so in Austria have come from Vienna’s City Councilor for Health Peter Hacker and the regional leaders of Upper Austria and Carinthia.

Currently, after contact with someone positive for the Omicron variant, there is a ten-day quarantine which can be ended at the earliest after five days with a negative PCR test. This also applies to fully vaccinated people, though in the case of other variants people in this group do not have to quarantine and simply have to reduce their social contacts.

This question, along with potential tighter measures to deal with the Omicron wave, will be on the agenda as the Gecko crisis commission meets today, and again on Thursday with regional and national leaders.

Unemployment is below pre-pandemic levels (just)

The Ministry of Labour shared December’s unemployment figures on Monday, revealing that 402,378 people or 8.1 percent of the population were unemployed that month. That’s a significant reduction from December 2020 and a reduction of 5,494 from December 2019 before the Covid-19 crisis.

Labour Minister Martin Kocher said on Monday that the labour market had “immunised itself” against the effects of the pandemic.

Jewish associations report far-right leader for Holocaust denial

The leader of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party, Herbert Kickl, has supported demonstrations against Covid-19 measures and plans for a vaccine mandate, at which protestors have carried signs comparing themselves to the victims of the Nazi Holocaust.

Three Jewish associations said on Monday they had reported Kickl for comments he made on Austrian TV. When asked if he would condemn anti-Semitism at the protests, he instead appeared to support their message, saying that the Nazi regime’s persecution of Jews began with people being “systematically excluded”, for example from schools.

The associations have asked prosecutors to look into whether these remarks fall under the Austrian crime of “gross trivialisation of the Holocaust”.

Police carried out 28,000 daily checks on average during lockdown for the unvaccinated

The partial lockdown began on November 15th and remains in place. Since then, almost 1.4 million police checks have been carried out to check compliance with the law, the Interior Ministry said on Tuesday morning. That includes adding 2G checks to regular police checks such as traffic stops, as well as patrols specifically targeting the lockdown.

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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Five dead in severe storms and trains disrupted, pension increase discussed, Covid-19 risk falling and more news from Austria on Friday.

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

Severe storms lead to deaths of five people, including two children, in Austria

Severe storms, including gusts of wind of up to 140 km/h, swept across Austria on Thursday afternoon. Sadly five people – including two children – died in Carinthia and Lower Austria. Several people were injured, some seriously. In Styria, especially in Graz, the thunderstorm caused much damage and caused massive power outages that affected thousands of homes. ÖBB  stopped running all trains in Carinthia, East Tyrol and Styria during Thursday afternoon.

READ MORE: Five people dead after violent storms hit Austria

The Frequency Festival was also temporarily closed due to the storms.

According to the Österreichischen Unwetterzentrale (Austrian Severe Weather Centre) there is a red severe weather warning level in four of the nine federal states early on Friday morning. Heavy rainfall is expected as well as thunderstorms and hail.

READ MORE: Austria heading into a rainy and cooler weekend after heatwave peak

Plan to create stream in Ottakring area of Vienna to combat overheating

A 40m stretch of asphalt is to be turned into a stream in Ottakring in a pilot project which could be extended, using streams and waterways to create more cool areas in Vienna. The first watercourse in the ProBach project will flow between the youth center, Alt-Ottakring church and Heurigen. Trees should then be planted along the stream which could cool the nearby streets, broadcaster ORF reports.

Pension increase of at least 5.8 percent

Pensions are expected to increase by at least 5.8 percent in Austria due to the current high rates of inflation. The increase will be calculated using inflation figures ​​from August 2021 to July 2022. As Statistics Austria has calculated, the adjustment figure is expected to be at least 5.8 percent, broadcaster ORF reports. However, there are calls for politicians to do more to help pensioners with the cost of living increases.

Gas ordinance amended to combat shortages

The Gas Market Model Ordinance 2020 has been amended by the Austrian energy regulator E-control to ensure that there is an uninterrupted supply of gas to the country’s power plants. The strategic gas reserve may be used to ensure that the pressure in the gas network does not drop in the event of a delivery stop. Gas consumers with high output are also obliged to register for the trading system (FlexMOL) as a precautionary measure so that they can then trade gas volumes more quickly in an emergency.

In Tyrol and Vorarlberg, which are not connected to the Austrian gas network but are supplied via Germany, a new regulation states that gas  withdrawn from the Haidach and Seven Fields storage facilities should be returned at the border. An agreement between Austria and Germany will be signed to this effect, broadcaster ORF reports. 

READ MORE: ENERGY CRISIS: Will Austria have enough gas for winter?

Companies run by people from outside Austria add billions to Vienna’s economy

As The Local reported on Thursday, companies run by Viennese people with a migration background add around 8.3 billion euros annually in terms of business for the Austrian capital according to  a survey by the Chamber of Commerce. These companies also create around 45,500 jobs in Vienna alone, and generate around ten billion extra euros of business throughout Austria.

READ MORE: How migrants contribute to Vienna’s economy

Fees increase for water, waste disposal and parking tickets in Vienna

The City of Vienna is increasing the fees for water, sewers, waste disposal and parking ticket prices, it was announced on Thursday. The tariffs for municipal services are being adjusted in Vienna on the basis of the Valorisation Act in force.

At mid-year, it is checked whether the consumer price index has risen by three percent or more since the last increase – which it has. The adjustment will take effect in early 2023.

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