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VIENNA

‘The pandemic has not been mastered’: Vienna to tighten Covid measures

Vienna has again decided against following the rest of the country in relaxing Covid measures, saying on Thursday stricter measures were warranted and that “the nationwide easing came too early”.

People line up outside the Stadthalle city hall in Vienna, Austria to get tested for Covid. (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)
People line up outside the Stadthalle city hall in Vienna, Austria to get tested for Covid. (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)

Mayor Michael Ludwig (SPÖ) said on Thursday that the nation’s capital will continue to take a different path to the federal government. 

Measures will not be relaxed, while several rules in hospitals and nursing homes will be tightened. 

“The pandemic has not been mastered,” Ludwig said at a press conference

Prior to the announcement there had been some suggestions mask rules would be relaxed, however the Vienna government declined to do so

Only one visitor will be allowed per patient, while two visitors will be allowed per day in nursing homes. 

Anyone visiting hospitals or nursing homes must be in compliance with the ‘2G-Plus’ rule, which means they need to be either vaccinated or have recovered from the virus, as well as possessing a negative test. 

Ludwig also indicated he disagreed with the federal government’s change in testing policy, although he said Vienna would not subsidise the costs of the tests. 

“The federal government collects the corresponding taxes for this,” Ludwig said. 

EXPLAINED: Austria’s new Covid-19 testing rules

From April 1st, the number of free Covid-19 tests will be limited to 10 per month for every person living in Austria. 

This is a stark change in Austria’s approach to managing Covid-19 and coincides with an end to full quarantine for close contacts of positive cases from March 21st.

Ludwig said he felt the system would be hard to administer. 

“There are so many unanswered questions that nobody has been able to answer for me yet.

“It’s not yet clear to me on the basis of which computer program or which statistics who then determines who wants to take the fifth or sixth test of the month.”

Vienna has taken a much tighter course when it comes to Covid measures for much of the pandemic.

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ENERGY

Vienna forced to dim street lighting and cancel some Christmas illuminations

Christmas illuminations in Vienna will also be scaled back this year as part of the city's energy saving measures.

Vienna forced to dim street lighting and cancel some Christmas illuminations

Vienna, a city known for its Christmas markets and its New Year concert, is cutting back on public lighting in the face of soaring energy prices.

“There will be no Christmas illuminations this year on the Ring,” the famous boulevard that encircles the centre of the Austrian capital, city spokeswoman Roberta Kraft told AFP.

READ MORE: Five of the biggest challenges facing Austria right now

And the lights at the Christmas market in the square in front of the city hall would only be switched on at night and not at dusk, as in previous years, “which is to say about an hour later, on average, every day”, she said.

The city authorities said they had not calculated exactly how much they would save, but the move comes after energy prices have skyrocketed following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its response to Western sanctions.

Last Friday, the Austrian Energy Agency announced that its electricity price index for September rose by more than 256 percent year-on-year.

READ ALSO: Inflation at 9.2% in July: How to beat rising prices in Austria

Austria, with its population of nine million, is very dependent on tourism and its end-of-year celebrations are a major motor of the economy.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic shut down much international travel, more than four million people visited Vienna’s famous Christmas markets in 2019.

In 2021, around 30 of Vienna’s shopping streets were lit up for seven hours a day, from November 12 until early January.

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