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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.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 20, 2021 demonstrators wave Austrian flags with the emblem turned upside down during a rally held by Austria's far-right Freedom Party FPOe against the measures taken to curb the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, at Heldenplatz square in front of the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria. - Austria's parliament on January 20, 2022 approved making Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory for adults from next month, becoming the first European country to do so despite a wave of protests opposing the measure. Tens of thousands have demonstrated against mandatory vaccination in regular weekend rallies since the measure was announced in November in a bid to drive up the country's vaccination rate. (Photo by Joe Klamar / AFP)

Austria passes vaccine mandate

As expected, Austria’s parliament passed a law making vaccination compulsory for adults yesterday evening.

The overwhelming majority of MPs (137 out of 170) from all parties voted in favour of the law, with the leaders of the opposition Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the liberal NEOS lending their backing to the centre right-green coalition.

Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein told MPs the law was “urgently needed”.

The far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) opposed the law as expected, with leader Herbert Kickl saying the law was “health communism” and an “attack” on the population.

Austrian far-right leader could face prosecution over mask rules

Also in yesterday’s parliamentary session, the National Council extradited far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) leader Herbert Kickl, paving the way for him to face investigation over an alleged violation of the legal requirement to wear a mask at demonstrations.

Vienna legal authorities had to ask the National Council for approval to begin their investigation, because of parliamentary immunity — but a majority found there was no connection to his political activities. It’s the second time Kickl has faced investigation for this kind of case. 

Another Covid record for Austria

For the first time, more than 200,000 people in Austria have a current confirmed Covid infection.

Thursday is the day for the weekly updates from Austria’s Covid Commission. We don’t expect a change in the ‘traffic light’ risk assessment any time soon, as the whole country is currently classified ‘red’ or very high risk due to the Omicron wave.

But the Commission also issues weekly recommendations, and yesterday they warned that an increase in occupancy of hospital beds could pose problems, even if intensive care units do not get overloaded.

The Commission said that if Covid cases reach a level of eight percent of standard care beds, this could start to cause difficulties, especially if the Omicron wave also leads to staff shortages.

Carinthia pushed to testing limits

The region of Carinthia recorded over 1,000 Covid cases in 24 hours for the first time, and the severity of the wave has pushed testing capacity in the western region to its limits.

As a result, it will no longer be possible to ‘test out’ of quarantine as a contact person after five days (freitesten in German). People who previously had the option to end quarantine after five days with a negative test will instead have to observe a full ten-day quarantine, with some exceptions for people working in critical infrastructure such as healthcare workers.

Delays in Austria’s Covid reporting

Austria’s Health and Interior Ministries still haven’t reported their official Covid case numbers for Thursday, and have told media they expect further delays in the coming days.

The reporting systems are up and running without disruption, but the high number of cases means that cleaning up the data to remove errors and duplicate results (for example, the same person performing two tests) is a more complex task.

In our daily Covid blog, we use the figures provided by AGES and we note which day the data was last reported.

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

No more '3G' to enter Austria, swimming lakes warm up, compulsory vaccination debate returns and more news on Monday.

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

No more testing or proof of vaccination to come into Austria

From today (Monday 16 May), all testing/vaccination requirements to enter Austria will be removed. It is possible to come to Austria from all countries in the world without showing a negative test or proof of vaccination.

A new entry regulation was published last week  by the Ministry of Health. The cancellation of entry checks was justified by the current epidemiological situation.

There is still the possibility for countries to be classed as virus variant areas, however at present no country is currently on the list of these areas. Should a new virus variant emerge, the obligation to test, register and quarantine could be quickly imposed again, broadcaster ORF reports.

Austria’s lakes warm up for swimming

Warm temperatures of over 30 degrees in May mean that Austria’s swimming lakes are ready for use, with temperatures exceeding the 20-degree mark in the Alte Donau in Vienna, the Aubad Tulln and the Stubenbergsee in Styria. Some Carinthian lakes are already at 19 degrees, such as Lake Faak and Lake Pressegger, broadcaster ORF reports. 

READ MORE: The best lakes and swimming spots in Austria

Nehammer unanimously elected leader of the ÖVP

As The Local reported at the weekend, Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer has been formally elected leader of the conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) with 100 percent of the vote. 

The heads of the ÖVP traditionally tend to get high results in their first election as chairman. Kurz was elected party leader in 2017 with 98.7 percent of the vote. However, there has never been a 100 percent result in a first-time election until now.

READ MORE: Austria’s Nehammer formally elected party leader in unanimous vote

Compulsory vaccination law could come into force automatically in June

An ordinance suspending Austria’s compulsory vaccination law will expire at the end of May, making it possible in theory that random penalties for remaining unvaccinated could be put in place at the start of June. 

The law  was introduced in February, even though the technical requirements for it to be enacted were not in place. Before a single person was fined, the Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) suspended the law with an ordinance.

To create a new ordinance or extend the existing one stopping people from being fined, Rauch must await  the report of the vaccination commission.

This will assess from a medical and legal point of view whether the Vaccination Act is suitable and useful. In a previous report of the commission, it said there were arguments for and against mandatory vaccination for those who were completely unvaccinated.

Der Standard reports there is little political support for compulsory vaccination and says there are still technical problems regarding automated fines. According to the Ministry of Health, the infrastructure should be completed in June.


Car reduction scheme stalls 
A plan to significantly reduce traffic in Vienna’s city centre will probably not be implemented as planned in 2022. Vienna wanted to set up surveillance cameras limiting access to the city’s First District by car to residents.

At present, around 50,000 cars are registered driving in and out of the historic centre every working day. 

Der Standard newspaper reports that it has information that the new regulation will not come into force this year as planned. The necessary legislation has not been passed and there are concerns about data protection.