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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

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

A tourist couple shelters from the rain under an umbrella.
Rain is on the way following weeks of sunshine in Austria. (Photo by ALEXANDER KLEIN / AFP)

Rain on the way in Austria

Austria’s long drought is coming to an end, with rain and snow expected at the end of the week and temperatures dropping by as much as 20 degrees. It has not rained for six weeks in Carinthia and southern Styria. In Graz it has not rained for 40 days.

READ MORE: Austria’s record drought set to end as rain and snow rolls in

This March has been the sunniest in Austria since 1953, broadcaster ORF reports, and the dry weather has even led to a number of forest fires.

However, the long period of high pressure is due to come to an end on Wednesday, and it will get chillier as April begins on Friday. 

Financial help due to Covid-19 pandemic will end soon

Financial help for Austrian businesses due to the Covid-19 pandemic, such as hardship funds and help with short term work, is due to end in April, although many sectors such as city tourism are still struggling. Bridging finance and help for events will still be available until mid June.

The Krone newspaper says negotiations with the government about continued financial aid are still going on behind the scenes. 

The newspaper reports Austria’s tourism businesses have received a total of 4.8 billion euros since the beginning of the pandemic. More than 700,000 requests have been made for Austria’s default bonus (Ausfallbonus).

This bonus provided up to 80,000 euros for any company which suffered more than 40 percent of loss of sales in any month from November 2020 to June 2021.

The existing short-time work arrangements, in which the employer receives full reimbursement of the costs from the state and where the minimum working time was 30 percent, will also change at the end of March.

From April, at least 50 percent of business hours must be worked. However, those affected by Ukraine crisis can apply for short-time work until the end of June.

 READ MORE: Everything that changes in Austria in April 2022

Russia threatens to stop sending gas

Russia is threatening to stop sending gas to “unfriendly” countries which refuse its demand for payments in roubles.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the TV station PBS that Russia would not send gas for free, stating “no payment, no gas”. So far energy companies of the G7 nations have rejected these Russian demand for payments, including the Austrian OMV oil, gas and petrochemical company.

In the same interview Peskov ruled out Russia using its nuclear weapons in the war in Ukraine.

READ ALSO: Can Austria reduce its dependency on Russian gas?

No fourth vaccination needed 

At the moment, it is not necessary for people to have a special vaccination against the omicron variant of Covid-19 or for most people to have a fourth vaccination as a booster, according to  vaccination expert Ursula Wiedermann-Schmidt from MedUni Vienna.

It is too early to say if this could become necessary in autumn. At the moment, people aged over 65 and those with a weakened immune system are encouraged to register for a fourth jab. Wiedermann-Schmidt said a Covid-19 infection in addition to three doses of the vaccine could provide equivalent immunity, according to broadcaster ORF

Distribution of Ukrainian refugees discussed

Austria’s Interior Minister Gerhard Karner (ÖVP) has spoken out against a mandatory distribution of refugees from Ukraine within the EU in Brussels following a meeting with his European counterparts. He said this was not even mentioned in talks, although the German Minister for the Interior has suggested it should be a goal.

However, he supports helping nearby countries such as Poland. Austria has already flown some refugees out of Moldova and will take in 500 displaced Ukrainians from Poland. It may end up taking up to 3,000 displaced people from Poland in total, ORF reports. Significantly more refugees are expected to come to Austria if the war continues. 

READ ALSO: How Austrian states are preparing for Ukrainian refugees

Strike action in Vienna’s private kindergartens

Private kindergartens in Vienna will be closed on Tuesday due to strike action. Kindergarten workers will march from the Votivpark to Heldenplatz to demand better working conditions, more pay and more skilled workers.

Staff report they feel burned out and exhausted following the Covid-19 pandemic. The strike will affect more than 90,000 children who are cared for by 7,600 employees in Vienna’s private kindergartens, after-school care centres and all-day schools.

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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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