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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

End to Covid quarantine rumoured, man sentenced for people smuggling, petitions against compulsory vaccination reach Parliament and more news from Austria on Tuesday.

The Dutch Royal couple
Queen Maxima and King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands have been visiting Austria. They went with Austria's President Alexander van der Bellen and his wife Doris Schmidauer to a wreath-laying ceremony at the holocaust memorial in Vienna, Austria on Monday, June 27, 2022 as part of a three day state visit. (Photo by Alex HALADA / AFP)

Could quarantine be the next Covid restriction to be abolished?

According to the Krone newspaper, secret plans for the final end of the quarantine rules are currently being discussed at the Ministry of Health. In the future, a so-called traffic restriction, for example being allowed to leave the house to go to work and to the shops as long as you wear a mask, could replace the current quarantine rules. A change has already been made to Austria’s epidemic act to make this possible.

People smuggler given seven years after two refugees found dead in truck

A 19-year-old who was arrested after two dead refugees were found in his small truck at the Austro-Hungarian border in Burgenland, has been sentenced to seven years in prison by the Eisenstadt Regional Court. A jury found him guilty of smuggling and fatal assault – but said he was not guilty of murder.

The Latvian admitted to transporting 30 refugees in his truck for up to eight hours without a break. The group were so tightly packed they were unable to sit down or stand up, as the truck measured just 1.40 m in height. They were not given food or water, and had started to run out of oxygen. The Krone reports one refugee described the trip, saying: “They invited us in there like animals. As if we weren’t human.” It is not clear if the verdict is final, as the prosecutor has yet to give a statement.

Petition against compulsory Covid vaccination comes to Parliament

A petition against compulsory Covid-19 vaccination has made it into Austrian parliament, although the law has now been abolished. The petition gathered 242,169 signatures, meaning it has far surpassed the hurdle of  100,000 signatures to be considered by Parliament. A request for the resignation of the federal government, which drew signatures from 172,713 people must also now be dealt with in Austria’s National Council.

READ MORE: 

Swimming pools see large numbers of visitors

Vienna’s swimming pools are busy this summer due to the heatwave. The Krone reports visitor numbers are up 50 percent on the number of visitors in 2021. Despite the higher prices, 200,000 more people spent their time in municipal pools than in the same period in 2021. There have been queues over the weekend at the Laaerbergbad, and at Krapfenwaldbad. 

READ MORE: Heatwave in Austria: Temperatures to top 36 degrees from Monday

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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Heatwave peaks today, Lake Neusiedl at record low levels, calls to increase mileage allowance, expert advises on fourth Covid-19 jab and more news from Austria on Thursday.

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

Current heatwave will peak today

The current heatwave will peak in the east today (Thursday). It could reach 37 degrees today, and will be followed by a deluge of rain. It has been above 30 degrees every day since last Saturday in Austria. 

Water shortages vary across Austria

The situation with water shortages varies across Austria following this year’s long dry summer. The situation is particularly precarious in Burgenland, where  Lake Neusiedl is currently 114.94 meters above the level of the Adriatic Sea. This is the lowest water level since records began in 1965. The Seewinkel has also been hit hard, according to broadcaster ORF .

However, in Vienna the water levels are low in the Wienerwald streams and the Danube, but not extremely so.

IN PICTURES: How drought and extreme heat are affecting Austria

New allegations against Hygiene Austria

A new scandal has hit Hygiene Austria and Palmers, the company which produces Austria’s FFP2 masks. The Standard newspaper alleges that Palmers may have carried out  tax evasion, using fake receipts. Up to 693,000 euros of customs and import sales taxes may have been evaded, the paper claims. Palmers and Hygiene Austria reject the allegations.

The company previously hit the headlines after ordering masks from China which it mislabeled as “made in Austria” during the pandemic. 

Possible reductions in energy bills for Altbau

There are plans to reduce gas bills for people renting an Altbau, or old buildings, which often fall under rent control laws. The Ministry of Justice, led by Alma Zadic (Greens), is looking into how a price reduction for gas heating for people could be implemented. Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler has pointed out tenants have no power to change their heating systems and suffer from high bills as a result. Kogler also intends to create incentives for apartment building owners and landlords to convert to renewable heating systems, broadcaster ORF reports.

Calls to increase mileage allowance in Austria

The GPA union is calling for the Kilometergeldes (mileage allowance ) to be increased from the current 42 to 60 cents. This is a lump-sum payment for costs incurred when you use your own car for business trips. According to GPA chairwoman Barbara Teiber, speaking to ORF, there hasn’t been an adjustment for inflation for 14 years. 

READ MORE: How to save money on fuel costs in Austria

Recommendation to get fourth Covid-19 jab before autumn wave

According to the vaccination expert Herwig Kollaritsch, people should get their fourth vaccinations now before Covid-19 starts to pick up again with the start of school, full workplaces and cooler temperatures. He said the new CoV variants BA4 and BA5, meant people have less immunity following an infection. If the last vaccination was six months ago, he would now recommend getting a fourth jab. It is up to the individual to decide if they want to wait for the new modified vaccine which targets the Omicron variant, which was recently approved for use in Great Britain as people risk becoming infected while waiting for the vaccine, broadcaster ORF reports. 

READ MORE: When should you get your fourth vaccine dose?

Pension increase to be announced today

The government is set to announce the statutory pension increase today (Thursday). The increase is expected to be at least 5.8 percent. Negotiations will start next week on whether there will be full cost-of-living adjustments or not. Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler (Greens) has previously said that the government could add another two to 2.5 percent to the around 5.8 percent. However, this would still mean that it would be below inflation.

READ MORE: Why (and when) double-digit inflation is set to hit Austria

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