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WHAT CHANGES IN AUSTRIA

Everything that changes in Austria in May 2022

From the return of the oral Matura exam to pool season, here are some of the most important changes you need to be aware of in Austria in May.

Everything that changes in Austria in May 2022
Even though the Danube sure is a busy spot in the warm months in Vienna, the lovely little houses along its waterfront seem to freeze in time. (Photo by Matias Tapia on Unsplash)

May Day

Austria will celebrate International Workers’ Day on May 1st.

But Tag der Arbeit or Der Erste Mai, as the day is known in German, won’t result in a day off work for most people because it falls on a Sunday this year. Schade. 

Oral exams return for the Matura

The spoken part of Austria’s Matura exam will return for the first time since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Matura, officially called Reifeprufung, is a compulsory exam for secondary school leavers in Austria. It is a prerequisite for higher education such as universities, academies, technical universities and colleges.

The exam consists of written and oral exams (Mündliche Prüfungen), but in 2020 and 2021, the oral part was cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions.

However, the return of the spoken exams is causing protests among Austrian students who say their high school years were hurt by the pandemic and they shouldn’t have to take oral examinations.

READ ALSO: What is Austria’s Matura exam, and why do some want it abolished?

The outdoor pool season is back

Austria’s public outdoor pools are back in business, and residents will be able to enjoy the sun and swim around as of May 2nd. In addition, for the first time in two years, the Bäder visitors won’t have to follow any coronavirus restrictions.

In other years, access to the pools has been restricted, with the vaccination requirements, people had to wear masks, and some Austrian public pools were even closed during the worst pandemic months.

In the capital Vienna, people will have the opportunity to visit some new and improved areas in some of the city’s public pools. So, time to bring the swimming gear up from the Keller.

READ ALSO: Six of the best things to do in spring in Vienna

Austria to reevaluate the Covid-19 vaccination mandate

The country’s vaccination committee is meeting again this May to report back to the government on the mandatory vaccination law.

The controversial regulation mandating a Covid-19 vaccine to all adult residents was suspended in March, just days before a new state was set to start, one that would have unvaccinated people receive fines at random checks.

The suspension came just as support for the law dwindled; other countries failed to institute similar measures. The official reason for halting the action was that the “burden on fundamental rights” was no longer necessary as the omicron wave of the coronavirus resulted in fewer severe cases.

That will be discussed again as the country faces the possibility of a new Covid wave in autumn, just as the immunisation brought by vaccines or infection goes down.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What are Austria’s plans to bring back the vaccine mandate?

Two holidays await Austrians… sort of

While there may be no May Day holiday, there are a couple of breaks coming up. 

On Thursday, May 26th, the country will have an official holiday that celebrates Jesus’ ascent into heaven, the aptly named Christi Himmelfahrt.

Of course, not every Christian holiday is an official day off in Austria (i.e. Good Friday), but prepare to do your grocery shopping ahead because most stores and supermarkets will be closed on May 26th.

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

Final days to apply for some hardship funds, and more money for pensioners

Although most pandemic support for art and culture finished at the end of March 2022, it is still possible for people to make applications for hardship funds for artists until May 2nd.

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

After payroll and income tax changes, pensioners should receive more money from May, Heute reported.

In May, it is also expected that the federal government will introduce several measures to ease the increasing cost of living, including one-off bonuses and tax breaks.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why are fuel prices increasing faster in Austria than elsewhere in the EU?

Grande news for Tyroleans as first Starbucks opens in the state

After 20 years in Austria, the major US coffee chain Starbucks is opening up a store in the country’s West, more precisely in Tirol, by the end of May.

As a country with a strong coffee-drinking tradition and great pride in its old and classic coffee houses, Austria does not have many large chain stores.

The history of Starbucks in Austria is particularly controversial: the first shop that the mammoth brand opened, in the prestigious Kärtnerstrasse in Vienna, closed on short notice in 2015.

The Seattle-based company is only present in Vienna and Salzburg. It will now brew up in Innsbruck, where its 19th Austrian store will be inaugurated. When it first came to Austria in 2001, it had promised 60 coffee houses would be set up in the country within five years.

READ ALSO: Caffeine, war and Freud: A history of Vienna’s iconic coffee houses

ÖVP party congress to take place

The ÖVP-tag, when chancellor Karl Nehammer will be officially appointed as the party leader, will take place on May 14th.

The event this year is particularly relevant as it will be the first public political appearance of former chancellor Sebastian Kurz since his resignation and retirement from politics after allegations of corruption in 2021.

On his social media, Kurz thanked the party for the invitation and confirmed his presence at the event but denied all speculation that he was considering a return to public life. “I can rule this out 100 per cent. My future is in the private sector”, he said.

READ ALSO: What’s going on with Austrian politics?

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WHAT CHANGES IN AUSTRIA

Everything that changes in Austria in April 2022

From new Covid-19 testing rules to initiatives tackling the high cost of living, here are some of the most important changes you need to be aware of in Austria in April.

Everything that changes in Austria in April 2022

End to unlimited free Covid-19 tests 

From April 1st, there will no longer be nationwide unlimited free Covid-19 tests in Austria. Instead, every Austrian resident will be able to access five antigen and five PCR tests per month.

According to Der Standard, PCR tests will be available through state-specific programs, whereas antigen tests, also known as “living room tests” because they are administered at home, will be distributed via pharmacies. 

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Austria’s new Covid-19 testing rules

There will be a fee for additional tests except for symptomatic cases and for people in high-risk settings like schools and hospitals. 

So far, widespread free testing has been the cornerstone of Austria’s Covid strategy, with one of the world’s most extensive testing schemes. 

Since the start of the pandemic, Austria has spent €3 billion on Covid-19 tests. 

The indoor mask mandate is back

From March 23rd, Austria’s nationwide FFP2 mask mandate has been back in action after a steep rise in Covid-19 cases across the country. Austria relaxed most Covid-19 restrictions (including the mask mandate) on March 5th.

This means people are once again required to wear an FFP2 mask in all indoor areas in Austria, such as hotels, museums, non-essential shops, bars and restaurants. An FFP2 mask was already required in supermarkets, pharmacies, hospitals, nursing homes and on public transport.

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

Additionally, the Federal Government has reinstated the recommendation for people to work from home where possible.

Austria still has one of  the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe, as fewer than 70 percent of the population are fully vaccinated.

Higher cigarette prices

The price of cigarettes in Austria is going up again in April due to an increase in tobacco tax.

According to reports, the increase will be around 20 cents per pack, although Benson and Hedges Gold brand could be around 50 cents. 

For every pack of cigarettes sold in Austria, the Federal Government receives about 77 percent of the sales price in tax. In 2021, €2.7 billion in tax was raised through the sale of cigarettes.

Rent prices to go up in Austria

The Vienna Tenant’s Association has announced an increase in the cost of rent across Austria from April 1st.

This means 755,000 tenants could be facing an increase of 5.85 percent, and 250,000 could expect their rent to go up by 5.47 percent.

Elke Hanel-Torsch, Chairwoman of the Vienna Tenants’ Association, said: “Increasing the benchmark rents means additional costs of around €360 a year for an 80 square meter apartment in an old building in Vienna.

FOR MEMBERS: EXPLAINED: Why is finding housing in Salzburg so difficult?

“In Upper Austria, the increase is around €390, in Styria almost €500. In Vorarlberg, where the guideline value is highest, tenants would have to pay over €550 more.”

Hanel-Torsch has appealed to the Federal Government to suspend the rent increase as the cost of living continues to rise.

Households to receive a €150 voucher for energy costs

By early April, most households in Austria should receive a €150 voucher to be redeemed with an electricity supplier. Around four million households should receive the voucher with the scheme totalling €60 million.

The vouchers are used to reimburse energy companies and help Austrian residents with the increasing cost of living. The move has been welcomed by Österreichs Energie.

READ NEXT: ENERGY COSTS: How to claim financial support in Vienna

The scheme is available to households in Austria with an income of one or two times the ASVG (General Social Security Act) maximum contribution basis, which is currently set at €5670 gross per month.

Finance Minister Magnus Brunner (ÖVP) said only 5 percent of households in Austria are above the income limit, which means they cannot use the voucher themselves.

Panorama platform coming to the Wiener Riesenrad

Vienna’s giant ferris wheel, the Wiener Riesenrad, will launch a new offering in April with the unveiling of a panorama carriage to mark the 125th anniversary of the attraction.

The new carriage will have a glass floor, no sides and no roof. Guests will be secured by safety belts and accompanied by a staff member for the duration of the ride.

Prices for the panorama carriage (which seats four guests) are expected to be €89 per person.

Easter markets are back

The famous Easter markets are set to reopen in Austria after two years of cancellations due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

They will still need to follow current Covid restrictions. In Vienna, that means that any areas selling food and beverages will need to have 2G controls – only vaccinated or recovered people can join.

Most markets will open from the first weekend of the month and last through mid-April.

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