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

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

Mountains Austria
Catch up on the latest headlines from Austria today. Photo: Midas Hofstra/Unsplash

Will Austria’s Omicron soon start to flatten?

The number of new cases is still rising in Austria, with the seven-day incidence rate topping 2,000 for the first time ever yesterday.

The WHO noted this week that globally, the Covid incidence rate is rising less rapidly and is starting to even out. 

Austria doesn’t appear to be at this point quite yet, and the Omicron variant began spreading here slightly later than in some other European countries. The chart below from Our World in Date shows the case rate in Austria since the start of the year.

Covid booster gives 99% protection against death from Covid, Austrian study shows

The study is in line with international data, and was based on analysis by Gesundheit Österreich GmbH (GÖG).

Out of approximately 5,600 deaths since the first completed series of vaccinations in February 2021, most deaths (around 4,500) were people who were not fully vaccinated. A total of 95 people died of Covid after receiving three vaccine doses, most of them aged over 75 and therefore in the age category most vulnerable to the disease.

The study showed similar effectiveness of three vaccine doses in all age groups. Among over-75s, the researchers recorded 0.238 deaths per 100,000 observation days among people who were triple vaccinated, compared to 22.56 deaths per 100,000 observation days in the unvaccinated group. This means the vaccine effectiveness rate is 99 percent.

Students protest about school leaving exam requirements

Rallies are planned by student groups today in Vienna and in some other cities across the country, to protest the requirement to carry out Austria’s school leaving exam (Matura) in person.

In 2021 and 2020, it was not compulsory to carry out the usual oral element of the exam, but that has been reintroduced for this year.

The protests are not organised by the national student union, but by a group called ‘Action by Critical Students’ (AKS) affiliated with the centre-left SPÖ party.

More deaths but fewer injuries on Austria’s mountains last year

The data comes from the Austrian Board of Trustees for Alpine Safety (ÖKAS), which recorded 272 deaths in mountain accidents last year, a rise of 11 from the previous year, although total injuries fell by almost 3,000 to reach 4,961.

The activity associated with the most fatalities in 2021 was hiking/mountaineering with 111 fatalities, followed by  mountain biking with 16 associated deaths.

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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.