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EUROPEAN UNION

Today in Austria: A round-up of the latest news on Tuesday

Find out what's going on today in Austria with The Local's short roundup of the news.

Sebastian Kurz
JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Regional measures to contain pandemic in east Austria to be discussed today

Known as the ‘Eastern Summit’, a crisis meeting will be held today with the Ministry of Health and the federal states of Vienna, Lower Austria and Burgenland to discuss the coronavirus situation in east Austria and possible regional measures, the APA news agency reports.

In the other federal states, however, no further tightening or relaxation are planned.

Austria’s federal and state government met on Monday to discuss the next steps in the pandemic, but decided to maintain the status quo, despite a rise in infections and hospitalisations in east Austria, as The Local reported yesterday.

SEE ALSO: Austria to extend coronavirus lockdown measures

Highest ever coronavirus numbers in intensive care in Vienna

The seven-day incidence, or the number of new infections with the coronavirus in the past seven days per 100,000 inhabitants, is 240.4. The number is now highest in Vienna (321.9), followed by Salzburg (300.3). The value is lowest in Vorarlberg (66.7), Carinthia (187.1) and Styria (187.3).

The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of the Interior has reported 2,412 new coronavirus cases within the last 24 hours. There are currently 1,983 people in hospital treatment due to the coronavirus, 437 of them in intensive care units.

In Vienna, 162 people were being treated in intensive care on Monday for coronavirus, more than at the height of the second wave in autumn.

Kurz will not be getting ‘one extra jab’

Austrian newspapers Der Standard and Wiener Zeitung have picked up on a report in the Financial Times, according to which the EU does not want to grant Austria any extra vaccination doses as part of a distribution of 10 million additional BioNTech/Pfizer doses throughout the EU.

The FT quotes an unnamed EU official saying “Kurz will not be getting one extra jab”.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, along with five other central and eastern European Union heads of government, had previously urged Brussels to find a “correction mechanism” to fix what they called the unfair distribution of coronavirus vaccines within the bloc.

FPÖ accuses Greens of being behind Ibiza video

The leader of Austria’s right wing FPÖ parliamentary group Christian Hafenecker believes Austria’s Green Party were involved in the publication of the Ibiza video in 2019.

The secretly filmed video caused a political scandal which brought down Austria’s coalition government after two FPÖ politicians were shown discussing circumventing the law on party funding and taking over the media with the alleged niece of a Russian oligarch in Ibiza.

The Austrian newspapers Die Presse and Der Standard cover the latest developments.

READ MORE: Austrian far right leader resigns over Ibiza affair

Note: A previous version of this story said it was Monday. No, it was in fact Tuesday. But we could’ve sworn it felt like Monday. 

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COVID-19 RULES

Austria to drop all Covid restrictions by the end of June

Austria's government announced the country would be back to "normal operation" in July, including in the capital Vienna. Here's what this means.

Austria to drop all Covid restrictions by the end of June

On Wednesday, February 1st, Austria’s federal government announced it would end all Covid-19 crisis measures by the end of June.

In a press conference, Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) explained that vaccinations, tests and medications would be integrated into the regular structures of the national health system. 

There will be no more free tests, except for people with symptoms and patients at risk, and those will be carried out only by family doctors or in hospitals. However, vaccination will remain free of charge and available at various points, including at family doctor’s offices. 

“The virus is here to stay, and we are preparing to live with it in the long term,” Rauch said. 

All current measures will be dropped in phases, including mask requirements, obligation to report illness, and special rules for doctors and nursing homes, the minister said.

READ ALSO: Everything that changes about life in Austria in February 2023

Roadmap to end all restrictions

From May, there will be no mask requirement in hospitals, nursing homes, and doctor’s offices. However, people in risk groups will be able to take time off work if they feel they would not be adequately protected at the workplace (and working from home is not an option) – this will be valid until the end of April.

As of July, all other measures will end with the expiration of the Covid Measures Act. Covid-19 will no longer be a notifiable disease, so people who test positive won’t have to follow any particular protocol. Currently, they must adhere to certain restrictions for 10 days, depending on the province.

READ ALSO: What’s happening in Vienna in February 2023?

The Covid Measures Act also allowed provinces to opt for stricter measures if they deemed necessary. The Austrian capital Vienna famously adhered to stricter regulations and is the only province where there is still an FFP2 mask mandate in public transport. 

With the expiration of the Act, Vienna will no longer be allowed to impose specific regulations and the mask requirement will fall.

Monitoring and new Epidemics Act

Rauch said that, even after the end of the reporting obligation, Austria would continue to monitor the course of the pandemic – particularly with the analysis of PCR samples and evaluation of wastewater in specific treatment plants nationwide.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why are so many people falling ill in Austria right now?

Additionally, he said that the Ministry of Health is working on a fundamental revision of the Epidemics Act. The aim is to send a draft bill with a “pandemic plan” that will include detailed descriptions of how to deal with various pandemic phases by the end of the year. 

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