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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.

A woman rides her bicycle through horse alley in Prater park
Yet another beautiful sunny spring day awaits us in Austria today. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Go ahead for 150 euro energy voucher

On Wednesday the National Council, with the votes of the ÖVP and the Greens, decided to offset household energy costs in Austria with a voucher of 150 euros.

The bonus is intended to reduce the next electricity bill by this amount and will apply once for each main residence, but will not be given for secondary residences.

To qualify you must earn under a certain amount. The upper limit for a one-person household is 55,000 euros, and for a multi-person household 110,000 euros per calendar year. 

READ MORE: Energy costs: How to claim financial support in Vienna

READ MORE: How will the war in Ukraine impact the cost of living in Austria?

Masks are back and quarantine rules have changed

Mask wearing is back in Austria, after new regulations were published a day late on Wednesday. From today (Thursday) until April 16th.

The mask must be worn in public places (indoors), in public transport, in retail, in physical services, in hotels, in sports facilities (except when exercising), at work, in cultural and leisure facilities as well as in hospitals, retirement and nursing homes. In gastronomy, the mask can be removed while seated.

Masks are not compulsory in private living areas. 

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

It will also be possible for people to leave quarantine without a negative test if they have been symptom free for 48 hours.

The catch is the person must wear a mask in all contact with others and must not enter health facilities, restaurants or cafes, gyms or major events. People can still go to work as long as  an FFP2 mask is worn at all times.

Austria remains high risk for Covid-19

Austria’s Corona traffic light commission continues to classify the country as dark red or high risk on the traffic light system. With the exception of Tyrol, the number of Covid-19 cases has increased all federal states. Vienna has shown the strongest increase of 18 percent.

However, the capital carries out around 134,500 tests per 100,000 inhabitants, while in Tyrol, the equivalent number of tests is around 36,300 per 100,000 people. There has also been a worrying rise in cases in people aged over 65.

Will Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky be invited to speak to the Austrian parliament?

Austria’s Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen has said he considers extending an invitation to the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to speak in Austria is compatible with the country’s neutrality.  Previously Austria’s opposition FPÖ and SPÖ parties were against inviting the Ukrainian President to speak.

However, the SPÖ politician Jörg Leichtfried said on Wednesday the party would not stand in the way of the invitation. According to the rules of procedure of Austria’s National Council, Zelensky can only be invited with the agreement of all  political parties. 

Nehammer on Russian sanctions: ‘Austria is and will remain neutral’

Can Austria reduce its dependency on Russian gas? 

The Ukraine war has exposed how reliant Austria is on Russian gas – but according to experts, it may be possible for it to reduce this dependency before long, broadcaster ORF reports.

The EU Commission wants to present a proposal by mid-May to reduce dependence on Russian gas imports by 2027.

The EU’s new energy policy, REPowerEU, already envisages reducing Russian gas imports by almost two-thirds by the end of the year and partially replacing them with liquefied natural gas (LNG) from non-Russian suppliers. A switch to renewable energies is also planned.

However, according to Austria’s Federation of Industry (IV) there is no short term alternative to gas from Russia.

IV boss Georg Knill said Austria must not “recklessly jeopardize its own energy supply”,  in a press release.

Austria is aiming for all its electricity to be from renewable sources by 2030. However, a Court of Auditors (RH) found in 2021 that Austria would miss this target on the basis of measures it has taken so far. It also found greenhouse gas emissions in Austria increased by five percent from 1990 to 2017, while they fell by almost a quarter on average in the EU. 

Austrian environmental organisations are calling for greater use of biogas, better renovation of existing buildings, and more use of solar energy.

There should also be an expansion of wind and geothermal energy. Vienna wants to end its use of gas by 2040, and is building the largest large-scale heat pump in Europe in Simmering, ORF reports.

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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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.

READ MORE:

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. 

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