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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.

People line up to be tested for Covid-19 in Austria
Austrian scientists have identified five possible scenarios for the Covid-19 pandemic in the winter. (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)

Austria to drop most Covid restrictions

As The Local reported on Wednesday,  Austria will open up almost everywhere on Saturday March 5th. People will no longer need to show proof of recovery, negative tests or vaccinations (the 3G rules) unless visiting “vulnerable settings” such as old people’s homes or hospitals or in the workplace.

Masks will no longer be obligatory except in vulnerable settings, such as in hospitals or nursing homes, along with on public transport and for essential shops such as supermarkets.

Nightclubs will open and there will be no more curfew. 

READ MORE: Austria to remove most restrictions from March 5th

Vienna to keep stricter rules than rest of Austria

However, as has occurred often during the pandemic, Vienna will take a different path. Vienna will continue to restrict cafes and restaurants to those who are vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19 (the 2G rule), while this will no longer be the case in the rest of Austria from February 19th.

When nightclubs and late restaurants open on March 5th, Vienna will only be accessible to those who have been vaccinated and those who have recovered, or possibly with a negative test, Mayor Michael Ludwig (SPÖ) announced on Wednesday.

The indoor mask requirement for non-essential retail is also likely to remain in place for longer in Vienna than the rest of Austria.

End of free Covid-19 testing?

Due to resistance from Vienna, it is also unclear if Austria will stop offering free Covid-19 testing to everyone, a policy which has cost Austria around 2.6 billion euros so far during the pandemic.

Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein said he believed there was no longer a need for everyone to test, and wants to look into the possibility of testing sewage instead to track infections.

He also said testing would remain free of cost for people with Covid-19 symptoms or those who had been asked to test by the authorities.

However, Vienna, which carries out two thirds of PCR tests in Austria, wants to keep testing with its free Alles Gurgelt system.

Mayor Ludwig argues more testing means fewer infections and less pressure on hospitals. Mass testing will in any case remain free nationwide until at least until March 31st. 

Speakers corner solution for protestors?

Shop traders in Vienna are suffering due to demonstrations which take place every weekend around the capital’s Ringstrasse, the federal chairman for Austria’s Chamber of Commerce says.

Dr Rainer Trefelik has called for speakers’ corners to be set up away from main shopping areas so that protests can be held without disrupting trade or main thoroughfares, broadcaster ORF reports.

Greenpeace protests against Lake Neusiedlersee development

Greenpeace activists are blocking access roads to a site on the Hungarian side of Lake Neusiedlersee to try to bring a halt to a huge hotel complex and marina which is being constructed there.

The lake, a world heritage site, is home to rare migratory birds.

READ MORE: The best lakes and swimming spots in Austria

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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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