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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Hike in gas bills for thousands in Vienna, 99 children rescued from mountain, Austrians' waning immunity from Covid and more news on Wednesday.

Boats on the Old Danube in Vienna.
It's cloudy this morning, but the weather should get sunnier by Friday. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Heating bills to almost double for hundreds of thousands of Viennese

Around 440,000 households in Vienna who have district heating will find their bills are to rise by 92 percent, or almost double, according to information from the Kronen Zeitung newspaper. Wien Energie also confirmed the information to broadcaster ORF on Tuesday evening. For the average household, the increase means additional expenditure of around 45 euros per month. The reason for the high prices is that district heating is mainly generated from gas, which Austria largely imports from Russia. 

READ MORE: What is Austria planning to do to cushion the rising cost of living?

New package against rising cost of living planned for Autumn

The Austrian government is likely to agree on a new package against inflation in the next few days, but the measures should be taken only in autumn, the Minister of Social Affairs Johannes Rauch (Greens) said in the “ZiB 2” on Tuesday evening. He cited the necessary parliamentary process times as the reason for the delays in taking actions.

According to Rauch, the package will contain both short-term and structural measures. The minister didn’t give details, but did confirm that the CO2 tax should be postpone and that the government would bring aid “immediately”. 

Around 61 percent of Austria’s population is immune to the BA.2 Omicron Covid variant

Scientists estimate around 61 percent of Austria’s population is immune to the Omicron BA.2 variant of Covid, following modelling by simulation researcher Niki Popper. The BA.2 variant is currently dominant in Austria, broadcaster ORF reports. Researchers found that the proportion of the population that was protected against this subtype as of June 1 has shrunk noticeably in recent weeks. However, due to warmer temperatures, the virus is circulating less in the population. 

According to the scientists, most Austrians were protected against BA.2 infections around the end of March, when the level of immunisation was just over 75 percent of the population. However, immunity has fallen since then, primarily because protections from vaccinations or  recovery from the disease had worn off. 

Helicopter rescue for 99 students and eight teachers hiking in Vorarlberg

Two helicopters had to come to the rescue of 99 German students and eight teachers hiking in the Kleinwalsertal area on Tuesday. The Vorarlberg police said the teachers had selected a hiking route from the Internet, using the Hikr.org. The children were not wearing the correct shoes and did not have enough experience in the mountains to undertake the hike over the narrow Heuberggrat, which according to the police “requires a head for heights, sure-footedness and experience in alpine terrain”, broadcaster ORF reports. The trail was also wet and slippery due to recent rainfall. 

Two children slipped and suffered injury before the entire group were rescued. Police said some students were exhausted, hypothermic, soaking wet and very upset. 

The case will be forwarded to the public prosecutor’s office in Feldkirch for criminal assessment after the conclusion of the investigation, it said.

READ ALSO: Austrian rescuers save 100 German school children stuck while hiking in Alps

Rental e-scooters should slow down traffic offenders

Rental e-scooters in Vienna from the Link company are to be equipped with a new technology that can be used to slow down people who use them irresponsibly. Built-in sensors will not only recognise bad driving behaviour, but also when the scooters are parked in a way which blocks roads or pavements.

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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Forest fire extinguished, winter to test power grid, police warn of telephone frauds and more news from Austria on Monday.

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

Forest fire extinguished after days

A forest fire that was first reported on Friday in Serfaus, Tyrol, was extinguished on Sunday afternoon with the help of several fire brigades and mountain rescue, broadcaster ORF said.

A lightning strike probably caused the fire, the authorities said. The dry weather and extreme heat in Austria make it challenging to contain forest fires and increase their likelihood.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Austria banned everyone from the forest for 123 years

Fewer kids leaving schools for homeschooling

The number of “school-leaving certificates” that allow children to deregister from school for home education has significantly decreased, daily Der Standard said.

A total of 4,601 children were deregistered from school by the end of the deadline this year, according to the Ministry of Education. In the previous school year, there were around 7,500 withdrawals from classes.

Austria has no mandatory school, but kids need to receive an education. Therefore, children can attend home lessons or go into private education not regulated by public law. Last year, many parents chose to take their kids from school amid the coronavirus pandemic and the school restrictions and regulations.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Is homeschooling legal in Austria?

Winter will test Vienna’s power grid

Vienna has gone through some power shortages recently, including affecting the amusement park in Prater, where people were stuck on rides and had to be rescued.

Experts fear that power shortages will become more common in connection with the heat, according to ORF. Blackout and crisis prevention expert Herbert Saurugg told the broadcaster that the climate crisis and increased infrastructure damage would pressure the Austrian capital’s power grid. Especially as people resort to electric heaters in winter when gas supply could be cut, the report added.

Vienna’s electricity state-run company, Wiener Netze, is more optimistic. “We have a security of supply of 99.99 percent and we are constantly renewing our electricity grid and expanding it to meet future requirements”, spokesman Christian Call said.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Should I buy an electric heater in Austria this winter?

Police warn (again) of telephone fraud

The police say they are seeing a sharp increase in fraudulent calls, with criminals trying to scam people into sending them money or giving them private information, according to ORF.

There are several scams, including “fake cops”, when fraudsters call the victims pretending to be from law enforcement. They often say that a gang is planning robberies in the neighbourhood or that the victim’s bank is being investigated for corruption. Regardless of the story, the goal is the same: get the victim to surrender their belongings for “custody” or send the “police” money.

READ ALSO: Austrian police warn public about new ‘fake cops’ scam

Volatile weather with mild temperatures

In general, the day is a bit volatile with some clouds and, at times, a few showers, especially from east Tyrol to southern Lower Austria and the Graz region, Austria’s central for meteorology and geodynamik ZAMG said.

Some thunderstorms can happen throughout the country, but the sun may also shine in regions. Afternoon temperatures should stay between 22C to 28C, with the highest temperatures in the west.
In Vienna, the day starts with some clouds and light rain, but they dissipate during the day, bringing back the sun. Afternoon temperatures are around 25C.

READ ALSO: Austrian heatwave: Six tips to get a better night’s sleep

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