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

Every weekday, The Local brings you an English-language summary of the news you need to know in Austria.

People rest at the Donaukanal.
The sunny weather continues in Vienna today. (JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Package unveiled to combat inflation and rising fuel prices 

Austria’s government unveiled a two billion package of measures to combat inflation and rising fuel prices on Sunday. The largest measure is a reduction in taxes on natural gas and electricity by the end of June 2023, which is expected to cost 900 million euros.

READ MORE: Austria unveils €2 billion relief package to fight rising fuel costs

There will be a 50 percent increase in the commuter allowance, costing 400 million euros. Around 150 million euros will be spent on encouraging people to use public transport and 120 million euros to help small and medium sized businesses with high fuel costs switch to greener energy.

A further 250 million euros will be spent on investments in wind and solar power. 

The head of the Economic Research Institute (WIFO) Gabriel Felbermayr tweeted that the package was a “a reasonable compromise”. However, the ​​Austrian trade union federation (ÖGB) tweeted the cuts were too timid, and pointed out increasing the commuter allowance helped higher earners more than those on lower salaries.  

School Covid-19 mask and testing rules to stay unchanged until Easter

The ÖVP Minister of Education Martin Polaschek has said the Covid-19 rules in schools will remain unchanged until the Easter holidays.

This means masks only have to be worn in the corridor despite stricter mask measures announced by the Minister of Health Johannes Rauch (Greens) at the weekend. 

READ MORE: Austria brings back mandatory FFP2 face masks indoors as Covid cases soar

The rules around Covid-19 testing in schools will also stay the same. While free tests will be limited to ten per month nationwide from April 1st (five PCR and antigen tests each), schoolchildren may continue to take three tests per week for the time being.

There are no plans to lift the compulsory school attendance requirement although 20,000 students are currently infected, 1,200 classes are in distance learning and nine schools are closed, Der Standard newspaper reports.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Austria’s new testing rules

Tourists avoiding Vienna’s hotels due to war in Ukraine

The head of the hotel industry group in Vienna’s Chamber of Commerce has told the Kronen Zeitung newspaper that the hotel industry in Austria’s capital is losing millions of guests due to the war in Ukraine.

Dominic Schmid said he believed the year would bring around 25 percent fewer overnight stays than originally expected, and many long-planned trips were being cancelled. 

Doctors support MFG anti-vaccination party

Vienna’s doctors elected their professional representatives on Saturday to the Medical Association and gave the anti-vaccination party MFG (Menschen, Freiheit, Grundrechte or People, Freedom, Basic Rights) led by gynaecologist Christian Fiala, six of the total 90 mandates. This means doctors who oppose vaccination will be represented in the Medical Association.

The Austrian Press Association (APA) reports that the MFG party drew the greatest support from general practitioners, achieving 13 percent of the vote in this group. 

READ MORE: Who are MFG – Austria’s vaccine-sceptic party?

Benefit concert raises €810,000 for Ukraine relief effort

A benefit concert “We Stand With Ukraine” in Vienna’s Ernst Happel Stadium on Saturday evening raised 810,337 euros towards Ukrainian charities, expressing Austrians’ solidarity with the besieged state.  The concert featured local acts such as Seiler & Speer,  Wanda and Pizzera & Jaus  and Bilderbuch. Concert tickets were 19.91 euros (the price referred to the year 1991, when Ukraine became independent).

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For members


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

First monkeypox case found in Austria, Van der Bellen to run again, millions of Russian assets frozen, and more news on Monday

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

First case of monkeypox in Vienna

The first case of monkeypox has reached Vienna. A 35-year-old man is being treated in an isolation ward in a clinic in the Favoriten district after developing typical symptoms of the disease: a slight fever and pustules. Contact tracing is already underway, broadcaster ORF reports. Experts are unsure why the disease, which is normally only occurs in Africa, is spreading throughout Europe.

Alexander Van der Bellen to run for President again 

Austria’s President Van der Bellen has announced on Twitter that he will stand once again for the President of Austria. This was expected last week, when a TikTok video was released showing footage of the President which played The Clash song, “Should I stay or should I go?”.

The Greens, liberal NEOS and left wing SPÖ parties have all welcomed the decision, but the far right FPÖ party has announced it plans to put up a rival candidate, broadcaster ORF reports. The FPÖ’s leader, Herbert Kickl, criticised Van der Bellen for his support of the Covid policy in Austria and for “weakening Austria’s neutrality”, the broadcaster reports.

EXPLAINED: How does Austria’s presidential election work?

Russian assets worth millions of euros frozen in Austria

Around 254 million euros in Russian assets have been frozen in a total of 97 accounts in Austria as part of  EU sanctions, the Federal Chancellery announced on Sunday. Broadcaster ORF reports this is twice as much as Germany has managed. A task force led by the Directorate for State Security and Intelligence (DSN) in the Ministry of the Interior is responsible for investigating the assets. The investigators also managed to locate five land register entries that were supposed to have served to conceal assets.

Villa in Attersee occupied by squatters

Anarchist squatters gained access to a villa believed to be owned by a Russian oligarch villa in Burgau am Attersee in the municipality of St. Gilgen on Saturday The squatters demanded sanctions from the Russian owner Igor Shuvalov, who , according to media reports, is said to have vacated the villa in March. The squatters have since left the building.

Austria’s former foreign minister could face sanctions soon

Austria’s former foreign minister Karin Kneissl could face sanctions from the EU, after she failed to resign from her job with Russian oil giant Rosnef. By contrast, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has left his position with the firm after sanctions were threatened. 

The OE24 website reports she will continue in her role, which pays an annual salary of 515,000 euros. It is now up to the EU Commission to propose them for inclusion in the sanctions list, which could soon mean her assets are frozen and her bank accounts are blocked. 

Vienna’s Uno City promised 30 million euro refurb

Vienna’s UNO City, which is home to the city’s international organisations and its 5,000 workers, has been promised a 30 million euro refurb by the Republic of Austria, which owns the high rise buildings. The  office towers in the Donaustadt are more than 40 years old and urgently need renovation. The total costs could end up being ten times higher than the 30 million euros promised so far. for the first phase. Broadcaster ORF reports the buildings no longer comply with building and fire regulations.