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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.

Austria is rolling out a bonus to encourage people to repair their electronics. Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash
Austria is rolling out a bonus to encourage people to repair their electronics. Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

Experts call for a return of FFP2 masks

Less than a week since Austria’s ‘Freedom Day’ saw the relaxation of most Covid measures, case numbers are skyrocketing. 

Worryingly, shortages have been seen in the country’s hospitals. Medical Association Vice Harald Mayer told Austria’s Krone Zeitung newspaper “we are running out of beds, some of the staff are exhausted and unnerved or infected, quit in rows or are looking for transfers”.

Austria’s Corona Commission has called for a return of some measures to stem the flow, while several experts have called for the reinstatement of ‘3G’ rules in indoor areas and mandatory FFP2 masks. 

Molecular biologist Ulrich Elling told Krone that masks were “simplest and most effective measure for controlling the dynamics of infection” but had been “abandoned” by the government. 

“Masks should be compulsory”. 

Austria hit a record 49,000 daily Covid cases on Tuesday, with similar figures forecast for the coming days. 

EXPLAINED: What are Austria’s new Covid rules?

Austria launches ‘repair bonus’

Austria has launched a 200 euro ‘repair bonus’ to encourage people to fix rather than throw away electronic devices. 

A total of 130 million euros has been made available to fund the scheme. 

Individuals and businesses can take their device – whether it be a phone, coffee machine, e-bike, printer, television or anything else – in for repair. 

The ‘voucher’ can be downloaded from the government website and will cover up to 200 euros of the cost of the repair. 

Businesses which regularly repair items are entitled to 200 euros per month to cover these costs. 

Protests against the Ukraine invasion continue across Austria

Around 1,500 people took part in a protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Thursday evening in Dornbirn Square, Vorarlberg. 

The event included lighting up the entire square with candles, while the bells rang out from 630pm. 

Feldkirch diocesan bishop Benno Elbs called upon Russia to leave Ukraine. 

“We are becoming more aware than usual these days: Peace is a decision,” said Elbs. “We all belong to one human family, we all belong together: Austrians, Ukrainians, Russians.”

Protests have taken place regularly across Austria in the two weeks since the invasion, including in the cities of Vienna, Innsbruck and Salzburg. 

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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.