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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Mask rules being discussed with a possible relaxation on the way, Ibiza affair remembered, snake found in kindergarten sandpit and more news on Wednesday.

People in a supermarket in Austria
Could the mask requirement in supermarkets be dropped over the summer? (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)

Austria’s National Council meets to discuss masks, the extension of pandemic laws and deficit 

Austria’s National Council will meet today (Wednesday) and Thursday. The new Minister of Agriculture Norbert Totschnig (ÖVP) is also expected to be sworn in this morning, having missed out on the ceremony due to a Covid infection last week. 

One item on the agenda is Austria’s mask rules. The council will discuss whether to extend the rules requiring masks to be worn in supermarkets, hospitals and banks over the summer. The current mask rules expire on July 8th. This law affects around 130,000 employees who work in retail. 

READ MORE: Austria to keep masks only in essential places from April 17th

The council will also extend laws aimed at countering the Covid pandemic, by ensuring the regulations in the Epidemics Act stay in place until June next year. This means the government will continue to have the right to impose exit restrictions from local epidemic areas and register people entering Austria. If necessary, it will still be possible for the government to make catering establishments and event organisers to collect the contact details of their guests.

Austria’s deficit will increase by 6.5 billion euros to 19.1 billion euros due to the effects of the war in Ukraine. Extra money will be spent on a national strategic gas reserve, energy relief packages and aid measures for displaced Ukrainians, while revenue is expected to fall due to lower economic growth, broadcaster ORF reports. 

Chancellor’s greeting to his party hints at further relaxation of Covid measures

Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) greeted his party on Saturday, saying: “So many in such a small room also means: so many viruses, but now we don’t care anymore.” He has since apologised and said he is aware the pandemic is still ongoing, according to the Kronen Zeitung newspaper. However, all entry rules to Austria were abolished on Monday, and the National Council will discuss mask wearing in supermarkets, banks and hospitals today (Wednesday). 

Gecko Chairwoman and Chief Medical Officer Katharina Reich has told the Kleine Zeitung newspaper that she believes masks should stay in essential retail. However, virologist Dorothee von Laer told the Kurier she considers dropping the mask requirement in July to be “justifiable”.

‘Ibiza scandal’ vice chancellor ‘regrets’ resignation 

The ex-FPÖ leader and vice chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, who left politics in disgrace following the Ibiza affair, which also led to the downfall of Austria’s coalition government, now says he regrets his resignation. Strache gave an interview with Puls 24 in the Ibizan villa which was the scene of the scandal on the three year anniversary of the event, in which he described himself as the victim of a political assassination. 

The scandal blew up after Strache was secretly filmed meeting the supposed niece of a Russian oligarch in an Ibizan villa. During the video Strache spoke of investing in one of Austria’s most popular newspapers, the Kronen Zeitung and getting rid of some of its journalists. He also promised state contracts in return for help with  FPÖ political campaigns. After excerpts of the video were published in May 2019, Strache retired as a politician. He now says this resignation was “probably my biggest mistake”.

READ MORE: What you need to know about the scandal which continues to grip Austrian politics

Survey shows almost half of job seekers in Austria want to work from home 

A survey of 1,000 visitors to the job portal Karriere.at found that around 47 percent would not be interested in a job which offered no flexibility around working from home. According to the survey, 63 percent have had good or very good experiences with flexible working. While working from home has increased during the pandemic, it is not  yet an established practice in all companies. 

For employees, home working means greater flexibility and can have a positive impact on work-life balance, the Kronen Zeitung newspaper reports. 

Snake found in kindergarten sandpit

Summer must be on the way, because yet another snake has been discovered hiding in Austria, not in a toilet this time, but in a kindergarten sandpit. 

Staff at a kindergarten in Pasching, Upper Austria called the ICARA animal rescue service out on Tuesday afternoon because there was a dice snake about 30 centimetres long hiding in the children’s sandpit. The snake was given treatment for a slight injury and then released, the Kronen Zeitung reports.

READ MORE: Why do snakes keep appearing in Austrian toilets? 

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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Covid-19 numbers on the rise, wages shrinking as cost of living increases, Finance Ministry official online communication and more news from Austria on Friday.

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

Austria’s Covid commission alerts to 70,000 daily infections soon

Austria’s commission to assess the pandemic situation, known as GECKO (Gesamtstaatliche COVID-Krisenkoordination), has alerted to rising Covid-19 numbers, Der Standard reports.

The commission believes the daily number of coronavirus infections could reach 70,000 already this summer. This is mainly because people have been travelling more than in previous years while wearing masks less often.

READ ALSO: Will Austria bring back its mask mandate before autumn?

Wages are shrinking and consumption is rising

Austria’s economy will grow somewhat more strongly this year than expected in March, ORF reported.

However, according to the June forecast of the economic research institutes WIFO and IHS, the outlook for the year’s second half is much gloomier.

Since inflation is higher than expected in March, gross real wages will fall by a historic 3.9 percent. However, if inflation falls, the real wages should increase significantly, about 5.3 percent, in 2023.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Austria’s new finance measures could benefit you

Finance Ministry to contact FinanzOnline users

If Austria’s Finance Ministry contacts you, don’t worry: they will be checking everyone’s data on the FinanzOnline platform.

The goal is to have up-to-date account data so that all the announced bonuses and payments to counter the rising cost of living to be made quickly and with no issues.

The contact will happen via the FinanzOnline website and e-mail to users who allow email contact.

Of course, whenever the government or authorities announce they will reach out to people, there are always criminals looking to take advantage of it. Therefore, ensure that the message you received is from FinanzOnline and check the official website directly instead of clicking on links.

READ ALSO: When will you get your cost of living ‘bonus’ payments in Austria?

School holidays start in the east

Vienna, Lower Austria, and Burgenland students have started their nine-week summer vacations. In the remaining Austrian states, school holidays will only begin next week.

Classes will resume on September 5th for the east and September 12th in the Western states. Austria’s ÖAMTC traffic authority expects heavy traffic jams at the beginning of the month, especially as the summer holidays have also started in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and two German federal states.

READ ALSO: Everything that changes in Austria in July 2022

A break in the heatwave

The west of Austria will have a small break from the heatwave this Friday, Austria’s meteorologic central ZAMG says. A cold front arrives from the west, and maximum temperatures will be between 18C to 21C in the region, with thunderstorms.

In Vienna and Burgenland, though, maximum temperatures continue high, reaching 35C during the day.

READ ALSO: Wild weather in Austria: How to protect yourself during summer storms

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