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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.

People queueing to be vaccinated outside a swimming pool in Vienna
People go to get vaccinated at the Amalienbad swimming pool in Vienna, Austria. (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)

Crazy weather in Austria 

As The Local reported on Thursday, parts of Austria have been basking in summer temperatures, with western Styria recording  21.9 degrees on Thursday, February 17th, compared to the usual temperature of around 3 – 5 degrees. The mild weather is set to continue today (Friday), and last into early next week.

However, in Salzburg, Burgenland, Upper and Lower Austria and Vienna there have also been weather warnings due to strong winds. Hurricane gusts of up to 167 km/h were measured in the mountains on Thursday.

Firefighters have been busy clearing fallen trees in Upper Austria and more than 20,000 households lost power due to the high winds.These winds should die down on Friday, apart from in mountainous regions.

READ MORE: Austria hit by storms as Graz records Europe’s warmest temperature

New commission will decide on compulsory vaccination

A new expert commission which will advise on compulsory vaccination has been set up to ensure any future action regarding the law will be supported on a scientific basis.

The commission will work with GECKO, Austria’s national crisis team. The compulsory vaccination commission consists of the physicians Eva Schernhammer and Herwig Kollaritsch, medical lawyer Karl Stöger and legal scholar Christiane Wendehorst.

Austria’s compulsory vaccination law – the first in Europe – is set to come into effect on March 16th, when “phase two” will mean police can also check vaccination certificates and report violations to the district administration authorities.

The commission will make its first report the week before, on March 8th. Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein (Greens) pointed out Austria’s vaccination law was supported by a large majority and was drawn up in a joint process by the federal government with experts and parts of the opposition.

Novavax vaccinations soon possible in Austria

Vaccinations against Covid-19 with the Novavax jab could be possible as early as next week, according to Austria’s Ministry of Health. Currently, more than 31,300 Austrians have registered for a vaccination with Novavax.

Austria has ordered 750,000 doses of Novavax for the first quarter of 2022.

It is hoped some people who currently refuse to be vaccinated may be persuaded to with the new vaccine, which is a protein subunit vaccine, using different technology to the mRNA and vector vaccines previously approved in the EU.

The process used to produce Novavax is therefore closer to traditional vaccines, which may encourage those sceptical of the mRNA or Vector technology. 

Two doses of Novavax, injected about three weeks apart gives 90 percent protection against symptomatic infection, according to the EU Medicines Agency (EMA). 

Rise in people becoming Austrian citizens

The number of people who became naturalised as Austrian citizens rose by 80 percent last year. Statistics Austria reports this is mainly due to the new law that made it easier for descendants of victims of the Nazi regime to acquire Austrian citizens.

According to Statistics Austria, a total of 16,171 people received Austrian citizenship in 2021, including 6,448 residing abroad. The descendants of victims of the Nazi regime, most of whom came from Israel, the USA and the UK, accounted for almost 40 percent.

READ MORE: How descendants of victims of Nazism can apply for Austrian citizenship

Needle-phobic? There’s a vaccination for you

Vienna has created a special vaccination offer for people who are afraid of needles.

Those anxious about being jabbed can be injected in a redesigned sauna area in the Brigittenau indoor pool which has been designed with comfortable seating and planting to create an atmosphere which will soothe people’s nerves.

EXPLAINED: How Austria’s vaccine mandate will work

The centre is accessed by a private door and you will not have to queue with others. Specially trained staff will also be there to ease nerves, including doctors and psychologists, who will wear street clothes, and will not wear gloves.

The offer is intended to help people who are phobic about needles and injections, but could also be used by those who experience strong conflicting views about vaccination in their communities.

For more information, call the free phone number 01/4000-53000, which is open daily from 8.00 to 20:00.

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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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