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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.

Trees wrapped in sheets await the arrival of spring after a very long winter 23 March 2006 at the HofBurg garden in Vienna.
It's going to be spring-like weather today in Austria. (JAKUB SUKUP / AFP)

Austria’s politicians respond to events in Ukraine

Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) has tweeted that he “strongly condemned”  the renewed attacks by Russia on the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.

Austria’s foreign minister and former Chancellor, Alexander Schallenberg (ÖVP) has also condemned “Russian aggression” in the Ukraine and expressed solidarity with the Ukrainian people.

However, Graz’s communist mayor Elke Kahr (KPÖ) has been criticised after tweeting about the Ukraine conflict: “Die Truppen müssen zurück gezogen werden und zwar auf beiden Seiten“. (The troops must be withdrawn, and on both sides). Some have argued that the words create a false equivalence between Russia and Ukraine. However, others say the mayor’s post merely urges for peace between the two nations.

New Covid-19 drug for vulnerable people in Austria

Austria’s Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein (Greens) has announced a further protection option against Covid-19 will be available for clinically vulnerable people in Austria. A new drug Evusheld can be used as a prophylactic for vulnerable groups, such as those undergoing cancer treatment or those who are immuno-suppressed. It creates an “antibody cocktail” for those unable to generate antibodies against Covid-19 from a vaccination or who cannot be vaccinated for health reasons. The drug has been developed by AstraZeneca. 

New vaccine arrives in Austria 

The new protein or ‘dead’ vaccine from the US manufacturer Novavax (Nuvaxovid) is set to be delivered to Austria today (Thursday). Vaccinations will begin in  Lower Austria next week. Vienna’s City Councillor for Health Peter Hacker (SPÖ) said the 8,500 people registered in Vienna for the vaccine will be notified by SMS or email once the vaccines are ready to be rolled out in the capital.

No show from Schmid at Austria’s committee to investigate corruption

A committee of inquiry into suspected corruption by representatives of the the governing ÖVP party will start on March 2nd. However, according to the newspaper Österreich, former Secretary General in the Ministry of Finance, Thomas Schmid, will not attend. It is reported Schmid is now living in Amsterdam, and has given up his Austrian residence, which means Parliament cannot force him to attend with penalties or using the police. Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer has said he will answer questions at the committee.

Numbers of Covid-19 infections only expected to decrease slightly

Austria’s daily new Covid-19 infections are only expected to decrease slightly by the middle of next week according to the country’s Covid-19 forecast consortium. Although one million Omicron cases have been recorded in Austria, and most of the population have either been vaccinated against or recovered from Covid-19, the growth of the new, more infectious Omicron sub type BA.2 means numbers of infections are holding steady. No increase in patients is projected in either the normal wards or in intensive units of Austria’s hospitals. The relaxation of protection measures and increased travel could also cancel out spring’s seasonal effect in reducing infections, the consortium warned.

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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

A booster shot is now recommended for children, the government will subsidise repair of electronic devices and more news on Tuesday.

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

Booster shot for children

As The Local reported on Monday, Austria’s National Vaccination Committee (NIG) has recommended that children aged five and over get a third booster jab to protect them against Covid-19.

Committee experts say the third vaccination is necessary for basic immunisation, regardless of whether a child has recovered from a Covid-19 infection.

READ MORE: Austria recommends Covid booster shot for children aged five and over

Half off repair costs of old electronic devices under new scheme

From Tuesday April 26, anyone who takes old electronic devices to be repaired will be reimbursed 50 percent of the repair costs, which can include materials used and  working hours including travel, up to a maximum of 200 euros.

A voucher can be applied for online for each device, which could include washing machines, vacuum cleaners, refrigerators or laptops. It will then be possible to redeem the voucher for three weeks.

READ MORE: Repair bonus: How to get money back when electrical items break in Austria

The Reparaturbonus scheme can be used to cover costs of repairs of electrical devices, but not regular maintenance. The scheme has recently been expanded to cover all of Austria’s regions.

Refugees left traumatised after attack by right wing groups

Refugees from Ukraine have been left traumatised after 20 masked far right extremists climbed onto the roof of the Ute-Bock-Hause accommodation block in Vienna’s Favoriten and let off fireworks, unfurling a large banner. Around 90 people have been housed in the accommodation after fleeing Ukraine.

The refugee house tweeted that many people staying there were in tears following the incident, saying one 13-year-old now refused to leave her room due to trauma. The organisation urged anyone with psychological training to come to assist them in helping the refugees recover.

Austria stays traditional when it comes to childcare

Recent research by the Economic Research Institute (Wifo) shows family benefits per child have increased by almost 50 percent in Austria over the past 20 years, from €3,541 in 2000 to €7,582 in 2020. However, according to figures in Der Standard newspaper,  stay at home mothers are still considered the norm in Austria. Figures from 2019 show 22.7 percent of children under the age of three were in childcare compared to 2006, when this figure was four percent.

The EU target is 33 percent. WIFO expert Margit Schratzenstaller says traditional attitudes – namely that small children are best looked after at home with their mothers – are apparently still particularly strong in Austria. In addition, few men take paternity leave, despite generous schemes being available. Schratzenstaller said a more enlightened and flexible corporate culture is needed in Austria, giving the possibility for more men to enter into part time working and take paternity leave.

Austria’s start-ups are faring well despite pandemic

The Austrian start-up industry has continued to grow in 2021 despite the Covid-19 pandemic according to “Austrian Start-up Monitor” (ASM) 2021. Economics Minister Margarete Schramböck (ÖVP) said the industry now employs 25,000 people, compared to 22,000 people last year.

The minister said Austria had risen to the top four of all EU countries in terms of its number of unicorns, broadcaster ORF reports. A unicorn is a startup valued at more than $1 billion.

EU urges finance ministers not to lower VAT on energy

The EU Economic Commissioner Paolo Gentilon has written to EU finance ministers asking them not to cut energy tax, arguing that tax cuts can be offset by higher utility tariffs for consumers. In addition, it is possible for governments to use the greater tax revenues to help people on low incomes, he said.

Gentiloni also warned that tax breaks for fossil fuels should only exist in the short term so as not to jeopardize the transition to cleaner energy within the EU.

IAEA head to visit Chernobyl

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, will visit Chernobyl  in Ukraine on Tuesday with a team experts who will assess its nuclear safety.

The experts will take radiation measurements and repair remote monitoring systems that send data to the IAEA headquarters in Vienna.

Grossi also traveled to Ukraine at the end of March in response to concerns about the safety of the Ukrainian reactors which were hit during the Russian invasion.

The Chernobyl nuclear power plant caused the worst nuclear accident in history in 1986. The power plant has since been shut down, and a huge protective shell is designed to prevent the escape of radioactivity. Russian forces took control of the area on February 24.

However, at the end of March they withdrew from the site.

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