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

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

People eat and drink on sunny day at a crowded Naschmarkt market
Spring is here and it's nearly the weekend. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Could masks not be needed after Easter? 

Austria may drop its FFP2 mask rules after Easter if infection numbers continue to fall, the Krone newspaper reports, after speaking to the virologist Dorothee von Laer. The regulation to wear masks indoors is currently in place until April 16th (Holy Saturday).

Currently, people must wear a mask in Austria when in hospitals, old people’s and nursing homes, in public indoor spaces, on public transport, in hotels and at work.

However, the virologist urged people to take personal responsibility if this happens, citing Asia as a good example. The next mask requirements rules will depend on how numbers of infections and hospital patients develop over the coming weeks.

Finance Minister still opposes gas sanctions, but hints at tax reduction for drivers

Austrian Finance Minister Magnus Brunner (ÖVP) has re-emphasised his rejection of a gas embargo, during an interview with Der Standard newspaper, due to a belief that “if we run out of gas, industry and suppliers would suffer greatly, including the economy as a whole”.

He said Austria was even more reliant on Russian gas than Germany. In the same interview he said he was open to a reduction of the mineral oil tax in view of high fuel prices, which could be around an 8 cent reduction on diesel and 15 cents on petrol. However, he said this may not find favour with the Greens, which govern Austria in coalition with the ÖVP party.

Green Party leader attacked in Vienna

The club chairwoman of the Green Party in Austria, Sigrid Maurer, was physically attacked on Thursday evening in Vienna by a 26-year-old Austrian man suspected of opposing Austria’s measures to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

The man first attacked her verbally and then hit her in the face with a glass, according to Maurer’s press spokesman. She was not injured and her attacker has been arrested, broadcaster ORF reports.

Chancellor Karl Nehammer tweeted he condemned the “cowardly attack” and said: “violence can and must never be a means in political debate,” he said. 

Green Party leader and Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler also expressed his outrage, along with the Mayor of Vienna, Michael Ludwig. 

Austria is downgraded from ‘liberal democracy’ in report

According to the annual democracy report  of the Varieties of Democracy Institute (V-Dem) of the Swedish University of Gothenburg, Austria has been downgraded from a “liberal democracy” to an “electoral democracy”.

This means that although citizens are allowed to cast their votes, there are no longer optimal conditions for a democracy in the state.

Austria has fallen behind on the “indicator for transparent laws” and “predictable enforcement”, according to the report. 

Call for Ukrainian teacher refugees to be allowed to work in Vienna’s schools

Vienna’s councillor for education Christoph Wiederkehr (NEOS) has called for Ukrainian teachers who have fled the country due to war, and want to teach, to be allowed to bypass bureaucracy and work in Vienna’s schools to help deal with the influx of refugee schoolchildren in the capital.

Speaking to the Wien Heute programme he said there are  already more than 70 teachers from Ukraine who have fled to Vienna, would like to work and are on the waiting list.

Education Minister Martin Polaschek (ÖVP) recently announced on ORF radio that Ukrainian teaching staff could at least work as support in German classes after Easter, but Wiederkehr said this was not enough for him. He also called for extra funding to pay for the extra children. “Within a week we got 500 additional Ukrainian children in classes in Vienna alone,” he said. 

Still possible for artists to apply for hardship funds 

Although most pandemic support for art and culture finished at the end of March 2022, it is still possible for people to make applications to the bridging fund for artists until April 30th. Applications to the artists’ social security fund (KSVF) are possible until June 30th, and for  the hardship fund until May 2nd. 

The federal government spent 448 million euros from Covid-19 funds on the arts and culture sector during the pandemic, not including short-time work, compensation for losses and the loss bonus.

The State Secretary announced that 155.9 million euros had been paid out through the bridging fund for artists alone, enabling a total of 10,005 people to be supported. Only 3.6 percent of the applications made were rejected, broadcaster ORF reports.

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For members


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.


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.