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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.

Children of a school class test themselves on Covid-19 with the so-called 'lollipop test', which is a pool PCR test for the coronavirus
A schoolchild carries out a Covid-19 test. Photo: Ina Fassbender/AFP

Back to school

Austria’s schools re-open today, and remain in a Sicherheitsphase (‘safety phase’) which means masks must be worn in all enclosed areas of the school and students must take Covid tests three times per week regardless of their vaccination status. 

These measures were initially in place until at least the end of this week, but that has now been extended to February 28th.

If there is a single confirmed case of Covid-19 in a class, classroom teaching continues and only the child who tested positive needs to stay at home. However, the remaining children must then be tested each day for five days, and if another coronavirus case is found within three days, the whole class must switch to distance learning.

Nehammer tests positive for Covid-19

Austria’s head of government Karl Nehammer on Friday tested positive for Covid-19, the chancellery announced. Nehammer, who has received two doses of vaccine and a booster, had not however experienced any symptoms, it added.

More than 10,000 Covid cases reported on Sunday

The number of new cases is continuing to trend upwards, with the seven-day incidence rate reaching 617 over the weekend. In Salzburg and Tyrol, where winter ski tourism is thought to be partly behind high spread of infection, the incidence rate is around twice the national average.

Police stop suspected trafficker in Vienna

Vienna police have held a man on suspicion of trafficking after finding 14 people from Syria and Turkey in the back of a van, following a tip-off from a witness. Some of the men in the vehicle said they had given the driver money for the journey, police said.

The man initially identified himself with an apparently forged driving licence, but police said they established his identity “beyond doubt” with a passport, and are investigating the 36-year-old on suspicion of trafficking.

A man fatally shot his wife in the first femicide of the year

A 46-year-old man killed his wife in Linz over the weekend, Upper Austrian police said on Sunday. The death has renewed calls from campaigners for more robust policies to tackle violence against women.

In 2021, Austria saw 31 known femicides (women being killed in gendered violence, usually by current or former partners).

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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