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Today in Austria: A roundup of the news on Wednesday

Grim Covid milestone reached, calls for inheritance tax, fears for OMV energy company after accident and more news from Austria on Wednesday.

A couple of swans with their chick are seen on one of the branches of the Danube River, the Old Danube, near the Vienna International Centre in Vienna.
Enjoy the sun before storms hit this afternoon. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Covid pandemic death toll reaches 20,000 mark

The corona pandemic reached another sad milestone on Tuesday. According to the Ages-Covid-Dashboard, 20,010 people in Austria have died of or with Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.

In the past 24 hours, there have been 7,281 new infections with the coronavirus, according to figures from the Ministry of Health and the Interior (as of Tuesday, 9.30 a.m.), significantly more than the average of 6,133 infections per day over the past seven days. The seven-day incidence per 100,000 inhabitants is already 478.1. 

The numbers from AGES Dashboard and the Ministry of Health are slightly different, as they use different criteria. AGES says that a COVID-19 death is defined as one laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19 resulting in death, where the status “recovered” has NOT been present between the status “disease” and the status “death”.

READ MORE: Fourth Covid-19 vaccination recommended for risk groups in Austria

Green Minister campaigns for inheritance tax

Austria’s Health and Social Affairs Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) is campaigning for an inheritance tax to be introduced. “Those people who have benefited enormously from an inheritance over the past 15 years must now make a fair contribution to overcoming the crises,” he told the Tiroler Tageszeitung newspaper. Rauch also expressed this opinion at the end of April. However, the ÖVP party, which governs Austria in coalition with the Greens, has rejected the idea, broadcaster ORF reports.

Reform to child protection law in Austria after holiday camp abuse scandal

The government plans to close a legal loophole in child protection law. This move comes after  a man convicted of child abuse in 2010 organised multi-day holiday camps for children and recently led outdoor courses for eight to twelve year olds for the Alpine Association (ÖAV), the Kurier newspaper reports. Youth State Secretary Claudia Plakolm (ÖVP) wants to close “legal loopholes” in this area together with Family Minister Susanne Raab (ÖVP) as soon as possible. The Greens also see a “serious need for action”. The changes should mean that anyone convicted of child abuse is not allowed to work or volunteer to work with children again.

OMV accident: Expert locates “serious problem”

The accident in Austria’s Schwechat refinery at the beginning of June will create a “serious problem” for energy company OMV, energy expert Johannes Benigni has told broadcaster ORF . The repair work could take months. Meanwhile, OMV must buy diesel from India, the Middle East and Asia at greater cost. Due to the war in Ukraine, there are currently the highest refinery purchase prices of all time worldwide.

In Schwechat, production is currently reduced to 20 percent of total capacity, which will hurt the company’s profit margins.

OMV has said in a written statement to the broadcaster: “The repair concept and schedule are being worked on. As soon as there is more information on this, this will be communicated.”

The accident has meant that all airlines flying to Vienna airport have been asked to avoid refuelling in Schwechat due to a kerosene shortage.

READ MORE: Vienna airport reassures travellers over summer holiday concerns

More thunderstorms on the way

Yet more thunderstorms are due to hit Austria today. Severe weather warnings (yellow) have already been issued for most of the country by experts at the UWZ storm center. In eastern Styria and eastern Upper Styria up to the Kalkalpen National Park, warnings of “distinctive weather” (orange)  were issued from the early hours of the morning, according to ZAMG.

Dutch royal couple to visit Austria

The King of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander, and his wife Máxima will visit Austria as part of a state visit next week from Monday to Wednesday. In addition to the federal capital Vienna, where they will spend two days, the visit will also take them to the Styrian state capital Graz.

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

Authorities looking to curb illegal racing, energy prices rising, traffic expected ahead of the extended weekend and more news from Austria on Friday.

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

Vienna wants to take action against speeding drivers

The City of Vienna is looking for ways to deal with illegal races across its street, especially in its 19th-Döbling district, where accidents happen too often, daily Der Standard reported.

Some measures have already been taken, including adding concrete guard walls in parking lots where racers meet and adding a 30km/h speed zone.

Now, Viennese authorities want changes in laws at a federal level, specifically a way to legally confiscate cars in cases of serious infractions or multiple offences.

READ ALSO: What happens if you get arrested in Austria?

Rising energy costs

Austrian households paid 45 percent more for energy in June than in the same month the year before, Die Presse says. The prices of fuels, heating oil and gas have risen sharply. Wood pellets and firewood are also more expensive.

When it comes to electricity and gas, many providers are also increasing prices.

In addition to the gas crisis, other factors also affected the price of electricity: drought in large parts of Europe reduces production in river power plants. Besides that, many nuclear power plants are not in operation due to technical defects; others have to be throttled because the rivers used for cooling lead were either too warm or had too little water.

“The high prices are a signal for diversification towards more wind power, photovoltaics, and geothermal energy and at the same time, more energy efficiency and energy saving”, Austria’s Energy Agency said.

READ ALSO: Cost of living: Austria’s postal service announces prices increases

Austria wants to reopen its embassy in Baghdad

Austria is looking to reopen its embassy in Iraq by September 1st, daily Kurier reported. The Austrian ambassador left Baghdad in January 1991, with other Western diplomats, due to security reasons.

According to the Kurier, the embassy in Baghdad is now to be “housed in a protected, international area as a first step”, with security forces hired locally. The authorities believe permanent representation in the country will be a “decisive advantage” for Austrian companies and organisations.

Additionally, a specific officer in the embassy should inform Vienna of “current developments and the prevailing situation in Iraq” and, in particular, any news on the topic of migration.

READ ALSO: MAP: Who are the foreigners in Austria?

Traffic and troubles for the extended weekend ahead

Austria’s ÖAMTC expects heavy travel on the country’s transit routes ahead of the long weekend and warned motorists to expect traffic jams and queues by the borders.

The transport club said many travellers continue to drive south while some are already driving in the opposite direction returning from vacation. The extended weekend due to the Monday holiday (Mariä Himmelfahrt) also favours day trips and short breaks, especially with the nice weather forecast.

The worst traffic should be divided into Sunday and Monday, ÖAMTC warns.

READ ALSO: ‘Bad and hasty drivers’: Your verdict on scrapping Austrian autobahn speed limits

Heat and thunderstorms this Friday in Austria

Though the day starts sunny in most of Austria, the afternoon should bring showers and thunderstorms, especially above the mountains. In the east, it should be more stable and sunny, Austria’s meteorologic agency ZAMG said. Afternoon temperatures will be between 22C and 27C.

During the evening hours, the rain will subside and dry weather generally prevails. Low temperatures will be between 8C and 17C.

“In Vienna, sunny weather prevails, even if clouds seem denser. Short rains cannot be ruled out”, ZAMG says. Afternoon temperatures will be around 27C. The night will be around 16C.

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