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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

Today in Austria: A roundup of today’s news on Wednesday

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

A statue of an Austrian composer Johann Strauss is seen in the late afternoon light at the crowded Stadtpark (City park) in Austria's capital of Vienna on March 22, 2022.
Another gorgeous sunny day is on the way, but some are concerned about the lack of rain this month in Austria. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

No new Covid-19 rules today

New Covid-19 pandemic rules were supposed to come into force this morning (Wednesday), but the new regulations were not announced. They should now be published on Thursday. According to drafts seen by newspapers such as Der Standard, the new rules will mean from March 24th, there will once again be a requirement to wear an FFP2 mask when indoors in a public space in Austria if other protective measures are not available. 

FFP2 mask rules should also apply to meetings of 25 people or more, unless everyone has proof of 3G. These rules will only apply until April 2nd. 

Health care workers may also only have to quarantine for five days even if they are still infectious, or even work if they are symptom-free. This measure has been criticised by both Vienna’s City Councillor for Health Peter Hacker and the Linz Mayor Klaus Luger. Both are members of the SPÖ opposition party. The Austrian Health and Nursing Association (ÖGKV) has also criticised the plan, saying healthcare workers deserve time off to recover from the disease.

Austria’s Covid-19 situation is still concerning, with 34,340 new infections recorded on Tuesday, 55 new deaths, and hospitals treating a total of 3,279 Covid-19 patients, although only 225 are being cared for in ICUs. At the same time the health sector is struggling with staff shortages.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What are Austria’s new covid rules

Council to vote on energy bonus bill

Austria’s National Council will meet today to decide on how to tackle inflation and vote on the proposed energy bonus, which will mean 150 euros will be deducted from the next electricity bill. However, high earning households will not see any reductions. The council will also discuss putting protection zones around hospitals. 

READ MORE: Austria unveils €2 billion relief package to fight rising cost of living

New emergency shelter for Ukrainian refugees in Vienna

A new emergency shelter for people arriving from Ukraine has been set up at Vienna’s Messe Wien. Up to 300 refugees are now being cared for there every night. There will also be a second registration point at the shelter, following long queues to access the registration point at the Austria Centre. In future Messe Wien could become a distribution point for Austria’s federal states for all Ukrainian refugees coming into Austria, broadcaster ORF reports. 

READ MORE:

Lack of rain sparks climate fears

There has been hardly any rain in Austria for weeks, sparking fears that plants will struggle to grow unless there is rain soon. In three Austrian cities – Graz, Klagenfurt and Innsbruck – it has not rained at all this month. The Ministry of  Climate Protection tweeted  on Tuesday the weather was a result of the climate crisis and said it was time for Austria to act. 

New bike rental scheme to start in Vienna

A new bike rental system is starting in Vienna from April 1st. The WienMobil is the new rental bike system of Wiener Linien. It will replace the Gewista’s city bikes, which have been available in the city for 19 years. Parking stations in all districts are planned. The new bikes will be red and white, have seven gears and an electronic frame lock. This must be unlocked via the app when driving off and locked to end the journey. From April 1st, 1,000 WienMobil bikes will be available – initially at 60 rental stations that are currently being set up. By autumn there will be 3,000 bikes and 185 stations. Half an hour will cost 60 cents, though Wiener Linien annual ticket holders will pay 30 cents. The new rental bike system is operated by nextbike.

Construction sector struggling to source raw materials due to war in Ukraine

Austria’s construction industry is struggling to source building materials such as concrete, steel and wood, as well as insulating materials, laminated beams and plastic products, due to the war in Ukraine, broadcaster ORF reports. Since the Covid-19 pandemic there have also been problems finding enough trained staff. Neighbouring Germany has already warned it may have to stop some construction projects due to shortages in products such as nails and screws. 

New climate council will spend half a million euros on PR

A new climate council, which will meet for six weekends on  behalf of Environment Minister Leonore Gewessler (Greens) will cost two million euros. Half a million will go towards PR costs, awarded to the company Lockl & Keck, headed by  Lothar Lockl, who formerly managed  the Greens campaign and represented Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen. The cost has been criticised by Austria’s Freedom Party (FPÖ), who say it is a “pseudo committee” costing Austrian taxpayers several hundred thousand euros,” Der Standard newspaper reports.  The newspaper also notes the committee was mainly funded by donations rather than public money.

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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Company vaccinations start, water shortages, museums try to reduce power consumption and more news from Austria on Wednesday.

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

Company vaccinations start again in Vienna

The City of Vienna has written to around 144,000 companies in the city, calling for them to get their employees vaccinated against Covid-19. The letter comes from the Chamber of Commerce, the Medical Association and the Federation of Industry (IV). In companies with more than 50 people willing to be vaccinated, the doses can be administered by the company doctor, broadcaster ORF reports. 

READ MORE: Austria recommends fourth Covid vaccination for over 60s and high-risk patients

Water shortages in Austria

The hot and dry spring and summer means communities in Vorarlberg and Upper Austria are running out of water, broadcaster ORF reports. In Langen near Bregenz, the drinking water tanks are empty and the municipality is therefore appealing to the population to only use water for personal hygiene and as drinking water for people and animals. 

In Traunkirchen in Upper Austria, the population is also being called on to water their gardens with rainwater to save water due to shortages.

Classical concerts are safe with a two metre “baby elephant” distance

Keeping a two metre distance – the length of a baby elephant – should also be enough to attend concerts with wind instruments while avoiding being infected with the corona virus, a US research team working with a symphony orchestra has found. Scientists discovered that the amount of aerosols emitted by wind instruments was similar to those emitted by people speaking, broadcaster ORF reports. 

Austria’s museums try to save energy with lower temperatures and LED lighting

Vienna’s Kunsthaus will close for six months next summer in order to upgrade the air conditioning in order to make the building more climate-neutral. Many of Vienna’s museums have already switched to LED lighting to save energy. Now the temperature in the reading rooms of Vienna’s National Library is also to be lowered, from around 24 degrees in winter to 22 or 21 degrees. The MQ is planting mulberry trees and plans to install a photovoltaic system, broadcaster ORF reports. 

‘Lighthouse’ plan following power outages in Innsbruck

Following a huge power outage last week, which affected around 140,000 households in the Innsbruck area, the Deputy Mayor Johannes Anzengruber (ÖVP), has laid out a plan for future blackouts. The ten fire stations and the main fire station of the city of Innsbruck are to become “lighthouses” in acute emergencies, where people can go for information in the case of power cuts. In the blackout last week, traffic lights failed, trams stopped running and people were stuck in elevators. Almost nothing worked in the state capital for almost 45 minutes, the Krone newspaper report.

Sunday and holiday shop openings questioned once more

After so many people went to Praterstern Billa in Vienna on Monday it had to close temporarily, the Krone newspaper is taking a look at why shops in Austria, and particularly the country’s capital Vienna, remain closed on Sundays and public holidays. 

It notes the rules are quite confusing. Some bakeries are allowed to sell groceries such as butter, juices and milk on Sundays, but not all. Gas stations and corner shops are sometimes open, as are supermarkets at major train stations and shops in some places, such as the Museum’s Quarter in Vienna, but they are only allowed to sell selected goods. Some shops open without being aware of the rules. According to the municipal administration and the market office (MA 59), there were 255 violations of the Sunday opening in the first half of 2022, with fines running into several thousands of euros for repeat offences. Some shops were open although it is illegal, others were not aware of the rules. 

Vienna is unusual in that it is the only federal state that has no tourism zones, which gives shops the option of staying open on holidays and Sundays. According to the Krone, Vienna’s mayor’s office says the social partners will not agree to Sunday openings. The paper notes Richard Lugner, a building tycoon, has long called for the general opening of shops on Sundays, but  adds nothing will change in the near future.

READ MORE: Why everything in Austria is closed on Sundays – and what to do instead

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