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

More thunderstorms, no recession expected in Austria, Covid infections increase and more news from Austria on Thursday.

Storms over the Rathaus in Vienna
There have been storms for three nights in a row in Austria. (Photo by SAMUEL KUBANI / AFP)

Covid-19 infection risk increases

Austria’s Covid traffic light commission has increased the risk rating of all federal states in Austria, with no states currently designated as “low risk”. The states of Vienna and Burgenland, both governed by the opposition SPÖ party, have now been designated orange or high risk level. However, this assessment should be treated with caution, as the commission no longer calculates the risk factor taking into account the number of tests carried out. Vienna and Burgenland test the most, and have the highest numbers of infections recorded. 

Monitoring of sewage shows the highest rate of infection is currently in Lower Austria, which remains in the yellow or medium risk zone, along with all the other federal states. 

Third night of storms in a row

For the third night in succession, violent storms hit Austria. Fire brigades were out in Upper Austria in the Steyr and Kirchdorf region and parts of the Mühlviertel. The cleanup in Carinthia continues, with the army using heavy equipment to remove rock from the Treffen am Ossiacher See and Arriach areas following mudslides. However, Tamsweg in Salzburg’s Lunga was spared from major damage to its buildings following flooding.

READ MORE: One dead, one missing in Austrian landslides

Austria unlikely to enter recession this year

Austria is not likely to enter a recession unless gas supplies from Russia stop coming into the country, the chief economist at Unicredit Bank Austria, Stefan Bruckbauer, predicts. This would not only paralyse large parts of industrial production, but would also drive up gas prices and general inflation. He told the Wiener Zeitung newspaper he does not want to rule out stagnation for the second half of the year. The Euro area is also not predicted to enter recession, according to a recent European Central Bank (ECB) survey of 29 economists. Economic experts at the Oesterreichische Nationalbank (OeNB) expect GDP growth of 3.8 percent in Austria for this year and 1.9 percent for the following year.

READ MORE: What is Austria’s emergency plan if Russia cuts gas supply?

Zelensky and George Clooney to speak at  4Gamechangers Festival

The ​Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will address an audience in Vienna live tonight at the 4Gamechangers Festival along with Austria’s  Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen and Federal Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP). The performance can be seen on TV on ORF III and in ORF’s  live stream.

After Zelensky was not invited to speak in Parliament, it would be his first public live appearance in Austria since the beginning of the war.

The Hollywood star and human rights activist George Clooney is also a guest at the  4Gamechangers Festival. In the late afternoon he will speak on the future of human rights, broadcaster ORF reports. 

READ MORE: Explained: Why Austria won’t allow Ukraine’s Zelensky to speak before parliament

A Biedermeier house in Vienna is to be destroyed for economic reasons

A Biedermeier house in the seventh district  Vienna dating back to 1803/4 is to be destroyed under a building code called the “economic readiness for demolition”. This means if the costs of renovating a building  cannot be covered by the income from the property after renovation, it can be knocked down. The Biedermeier house together with the adjoining buildings at Kaiserstraße 25-29, forms part of an old town which  has been marked as a protection zone, and is under a monument protection law dating back to 1973.

Older buildings in Vienna have a rental cap, which means it is easier for developers to make money by destroying them and building a new larger building with more floors, which will not be subject to the rent rules. It also means there is no need to carry out costly renovations on the facade. Vienna’s Monument Protection Initiative is calling for the abolition of “economic demolition maturity” and thus an end to such promotion of demolition and new construction, broadcaster ORF reports. It warns that if this is not done, Vienna could lose most of its historic architecture. 

Charities are running out of money to help Ukrainian refugees

The charity Volkshilfe,  which issues supermarket vouchers to Ukrainian refugees, says donations have plummeted and it will no longer be able to help people buy food. Refugees currently receive six euros a day from basic services, which is not enough, charities say. Three weeks ago, Austria’s Council of Ministers decided to increase the allowance, but this has yet to be  implemented. The subsistence allowance is to be increased from 215 to 260 euros: for each refugee that would mean around two euros more per day for groceries, broadcaster ORF reports.

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For members


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