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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

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

Covid test
Unlimited free Covid-19 tests are coming to an end in Austria. Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP.

Austria to review its testing system

Thomas Starlinger, member of the Covid Crisis Coordination (GECKO), has recommended focusing testing on the most critical areas of society (such as healthcare, social care and schools) in areas where the PCR testing system is under strain. Antigen tests should be used as the first alternative where there are no longer enough tests for everyone. Starlinger explained the change in the TV show ZiB Nacht.

Omicron’s higher rate of transmission means the country is reaching an all-time high in new cases, putting the systems under heavy demand. 

Security gaps uncovered in testing data

An NGO that campaigns for data protection has found a security hole in the nationwide Österreich testet (Austria is testing) platform run by the Ministry of Health. A pharmacy is said to have had access to the data of potentially hundreds of thousands of people across Austria.

The security gap was discovered by a web developer commissioned by the said pharmacy, who immediately documented it and contacted the Ministry of Health, Die Presse reports, but this was initially ignored.

More than 300,000 unemployed people received €150 benefit 

This was a one-off payment in addition to standard unemployment benefits, and the third bonus of its kind since the start of the pandemic, following supplements of up to €450 in September and December 2020.

The Ministry of Labour said another set of payments would be made in early February to reach all those who were entitled to the funds, some of whom for example may have not had all the documentation before the first deadline.

People in Austria are eligible if they either received unemployment benefit or unemployment assistance (Arbeitslosengeld or Notstandshilfe) for at least 30 days in November and December 2021, or if they received 32 days of sickness benefit (Krankengeld) having previously been unemployed. 

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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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