SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

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

Anti vax protestors Austria
Protests are expected today as Austria prepares to pass a law making vaccines mandatory for all adults without medical exemptions. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

Vaccine mandate to be passed today

Today’s the day that Austria’s law making vaccines compulsory is set to be passed in the National Council, where it is expected to get a large majority with only the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) voting against.

Austria will become the first place in Europe except the Vatican City to introduce such a mandate, though other countries have moved in a similar direction. Greece has begun issuing fines to unvaccinated over-60s, Italy has made the jab mandatory for everyone over 50, while a full vaccine mandate for the general population has also been discussed by politicians in Slovakia and Germany for example.

In Austria, the first fines won’t be issued until mid-March and even then it will be possible to avoid the fine by getting the Covid-19 vaccine within two weeks. 

Protests are expected in central Vienna during the day, but there is a ban on holding protests within 300 metres during a meeting of the National Council which means police have refused permits to several demonstration organisers. One rally has been confirmed on Maria-Theresien-Platz between 7am and midnight.

At-home antigen tests to be accepted for 3G again (but not in Vienna)

Self-tests for Covid-19 will once again be accepted as 3G in all of Austria except Vienna, after the government updated its guidelines to allow regions and the healthcare sector to cope with a sharp rise in new cases.

In order for them to be accepted as 3G, the test must have been recorded in an official system and verified. The test results will be valid for 24 hours from the time of testing.

Salzburg to send SMS to people who test positive for Covid

The new system comes into effect from tomorrow, Salzburger Nachrichten reports. This is to take some of the pressure off overworked contact tracers who were previously aiming to phone confirmed cases.

The text will contain a link where recipients can enter information about their isolation.

Austria records a new all-time high for daily Covid cases

A total of 27,677 new infections were reported in the 24 hours up to Wednesday, the Health and Interior Ministries confirmed on Wednesday afternoon (this was revised slightly from earlier statements).

According to Austria’s Covid Forecasting Consortium, the Omicron wave has not yet reached its peak and around 40,000 daily cases can be expected next week. 

Vienna gets its first Queer Museum

And now for something non Covid-related. Since the start of 2022, Vienna’s Folklore Museum has been hosting the Queer Museum Vienna, the first specifically LGBTQ-themed museum in the Austrian capital which will remain at the Folklore Museum until June.

Price hikes on consumer goods

Electricity and fuel costs have risen significantly in recent months, but it’s not only your monthly bills where you might feel the pinch.

Rising production costs are being passed onto consumers in other areas, with IKEA Austria confirming price hikes of nine percent and is one of multiple retailers raising their prices for consumers according to Salzburger Nachrichten which lamented “a lot of fun things are getting more expensive”.

Lovers of baked goods are affected too, with prices for bread and pastries likely to rise by around 15 percent according to the Chamber of Commerce, again due to higher energy prices.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Austria needs to 'wake up' in terms of neutrality, kindergarten headscarf ban overturned and more news on Friday.

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

Former foreign minister says Austria needs to examine its security policy 

The former Austrian ÖVP Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik has given a speech calling for Austria to look again at its security policy in the light of the debate over neutrality. “Austrian security policy has been dormant for almost a quarter of a century. We cannot afford to sleep for decades,” said Plassnik, according to broadcaster ORF, speaking at the Medienzentrum Ausseerland conference in Grundlsee organized by the Association of Foreign Press.

She said it was time for an update of the security policy, which is now ten years old, and to carry out a “careful, impartial and EU-compliant current risk analysis”. Plassnik suggested an “options report” should be carried out in 2022. This has been attempted before in 1998, but failed because Austria’s SPÖ party did not want to examine NATO membership at the time.

Following the decision of Finland and Sweden to join NATO, 23 EU countries now belong to the North Atlantic Defense Alliance. Only Ireland, Malta, Cyprus and Austria remain outside.

Plassnik called for debate, saying Austria was a “stowaway” in terms of security policy, in which its neighbors, the NATO members, paid the insurance policy. She added while Austrians may “carry neutrality in their hearts” it was important not to lose their heads. 

READ MORE: ‘No country is an island’: Is it time for Austria to abandon its neutrality policy?

No more headscarf ban in Austrian kindergartens

The headscarf ban in Austria’s kindergartens has been repealed. The measure will no longer be included in the new 15a agreement between the federal and state governments, broadcaster ORF reports. A law banning headscarves in Austrian schools, introduced under the previous ÖVP-FPÖ coalition government was overturned previously because it was found not to be compatible with Austria’s federal constitution. However, state laws mean in kindergartens, the ban is still in force, except in Salzburg and Tyrol. The constitutional court said in a statement that these laws were probably also unconstitutional

 A new 15a agreement is currently being negotiated between the federal and state governments, as the current regulation expires at the end of August. The details will be revealed later today (Friday). It is expected the government will announce payments of a  “kindergarten billion” distributed over the next five years. This will mean Austria’s federal states will receive money to expand their offer in the compulsory kindergarten year before school, and to give better language support. The agreement is already drawing criticism for not including enough quality criteria around group sizes or care. 

Virologist calms fears over monkey pox in Austria

The virologist Norbert Nowotny has sought to reassure people in Austria over the recent outbreaks of monkey pox which have been seen around the globe, in an interview with Puls 24

So far there have been no cases in Austria, but the virologist said it was possible there would be one or two imported cases. For people with a healthy immune system monkey pox was “no big deal” he said. However in immunocompromised people, the infection can be more severe.

Gewessler calls for Austria to adapt “circular economy”

Leonore Gewessler, Austria’s Green Minister for the Environment is working on a strategy for a circular economy, which involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing and recycling existing materials and products rather than buying new ones. She said repairs were an important factor to allow Austria to become climate-neutral by 2050 and operate sustainably. In order for long-lasting devices and repairs to be better established on the market, many other coordinated measures are needed in addition to the new repair bonus – as is the case for the entire strategy itself, which could be completed by June.

READ MORE: Repair bonus: How to get money back when electrical items break in Austria

Law changes to give more support to displaced people from Ukraine

Austria’s laws will change to give more support for people displaced from Ukraine, despite the ‘no’ votes of the FPÖ. Ukrainians have now been included in an Integration Act, giving them access to German and orientation courses. It should become easier for Ukrainians to enter the labour market, and have their educational qualifications and professional qualifications recognised, broadcaster ORF reports.

European parliament votes in favour of sanctions against Austria’s former foreign minister

The European Parliament voted by a large majority in favor of sanctions against politicians and Europeans who draw large amounts of money from Russia on Thursday, naming Austria’s  former FPÖ Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl along with Germany’s ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. 

The text also mentioned Austria’s former Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel (ÖVP), noting he had “recently resigned” from his office in a Russian company in contrast to politicians such as Kneissl, broadcaster ORF reports.

Payments for Russian gas can be made in roubles, according to ‘EU circles’ 

According to information from EU Commission circles, gas importers such as Austria are also allowed to open a rouble account with the Russian Gazprombank as long as they pay their bills in the agreed currencies, euros or dollars, to another account. Commission officials clarified on Thursday that this would be in line with EU sanctions. The exchange of western currencies into roubles would then have to be carried out via the second account on the Russian side.

The commission recommended states should not set up rouble accounts if possible, but this recommendation has no legal consequences, broadcaster ORF reports. 

At the end of April, Austria’s ÖVP Chancellor, Karl Nehammer, said that it was “fake news from Russian propaganda” that states such as Austria were willing to pay for the gas in roubles and insisted Austria’s energy company, OMV, would continue to pay for gas deliveries from Russia in euros. The Polish politician and former EU Council President Donald Tusk then accused Austria and Germany of having entered the “rouble zone”.

 The Russian energy company Gazprom has halted its gas  supplies to Poland and Bulgaria since they refused to pay for their gas in roubles.

SHOW COMMENTS