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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.

Cafe Hummel's owner
Cafe Hummel is one of the businesses calling for Vienna's night curfew to be scrapped. (Alex Halada / AFP)

Call to end curfew in Vienna from hotels and restaurant owners

Restaurant owners and Vienna’s Chamber of Commerce have had mixed reactions to Vienna’s plan to keep tighter Covid measures in place for bars and restaurants than in the rest of Austria.

Vienna will be the only state in Austria to continue to restrict access to restaurants, cafes and bars just to those who are vaccinated against or recovered from Covid-19 (the 2G rule).

However, the capital will also move its curfew from 22:00 to midnight from February 5th and extend event capacity for weddings and parties from 25 people to 50 people in line with the rest of Austria.

Markus Grießler, head of the division at the Vienna Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the continuation of the 2G rule and said the later curfew for restaurants and hotels would make Vienna “more attractive for guests as well as for the local population”.

However, a group of businesses, calling themselves the Vereinigte Gastro Wien (United Vienna Gastronomy) sent a letter to the authorities calling for the curfew to be completely lifted to ensure their economic survival. The group includes well known Viennese businesses such as Cafe Hummel, Figlmüller, the Schwarzen Kameel, Hotel Sacher and the Ritz Carlton

READ MORE: Vienna to keep tighter Covid measures in place for bars and restaurants

Compulsory vaccination moves one step closer

Compulsory vaccination in Austria moved one step closer on Thursday after the proposal was voted through by the ÖVP, Greens, NEOS and the majority of the SPÖ parties. In order for the law to come into force, the signature of the Federal President and the announcement are now required. This is expected to take place in the next few days. 

New legislation is also being considered which could mean vaccinations such as Sputnik could be recognised in Austria, according to the Kurier newspaper, which saw a leaked draft of the papers. This would help retain nursing staff from Eastern Europe who are working in Austria.

Another new rule being considered would exempt people who were vaccinated twice after recovering from a Covid-19 from having to have a booster jab. 

Councillor faces trial for holding child refugees in a barbed wire enclosure

A trial is underway against the Lower Austrian FPÖ provincial councillor Gottfried Waldhäusl for alleged abuse of office. The allegation relates to  accommodation provided to unaccompanied child refugees at a centre bordered by a barbed wire fence area in the Drasenhofen municipality.

Broadcaster ORF reports a representative from the Public Prosecutors Office for Economic Affairs and Corruption (WKStA) said the facility was “not suitable accommodation in terms of the basic statutory provisions” adding that it gave the young people the “feeling of being locked up”.  

Power plant workers come out of isolation 

Around 50 workers at the Wien Energie power plants who have been isolating at work for the past four weeks due to the Omicron wave can now go home.

The decision was made not to extend the isolation any further after learning more about the course of the omicron wave, the company said. The decision will affect employees at the Simmering, Spittelau, Simmeringer Haide and Flötzersteig sites.

At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic the workers at four Wien Energie power plants in Vienna were featured in a New York Times article as they moved into the plant and lived there for weeks to ensure the city would continue to be supplied with power during the pandemic.

The article focused on their love of jigsaw puzzles and potato goulash to get them through the long weeks away from home.

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For members

TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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.

READ MORE:

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. 

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