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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.

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

Hints at opening steps

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has given some hints as to how Austria could open up again in mid-May. The opening will be carried out with “very strict conditions”, broadcaster ORF reports.

For example, there will be a testing requirement in the catering and tourism sectors, but not for retail, said the Chancellor on Tuesday in the Ö1 morning journal.

The opening plan will be drawn up by a commission, with the first details available at the end of the week. Kurz promises by the summer, 200,000 people should be back in employment. 

Seven day incidence at 194

According to the AGES database, the seven-day incidence or the number of new infections with the coronavirus in the past seven days per 100,000 inhabitants, is 194.2.

Vienna has the highest seven-day incidence of all federal states with 247.6, Burgenland the lowest with 122.3.

More funding for investment in business as part of ‘come-back plan’

The government will increase funding for investments for business from €3 to €5 billion as part of the ‘comeback’ package for the economy the Wiener Zeitung newspaper reports.

At the Council of Ministers on Tuesday, at the end of the government meeting, an increase in the federal budget deficit by €8 billion to €31 billion will be decided. 

Plan meets with some criticism 

The Der Standard newspaper says in a comment piece it is “half a comeback plan” at best. The paper reports the plans mean in the case of companies that invest in new computers or machines, the state subsidises seven percent of their expenditure, and up to 14 percent in the case of investments in the health sector and digitisation.

However, the outlet points out some branches of the economy such as industry do not need government help, and there is no prerequisite for the money to go on new projects.  

More concrete measures?

Die Presse newspaper asks for the government to reveal more concrete measures, asking when wage tax brackets two and three will go down, and when corporate income tax will gradually be reduced to the 21 percent stipulated in the government programme.

It also comments that reduced employer contributions for employees and tax exemptions for first time buyers have been promised.

Austria to return to pre-crisis levels of unemployment by 2023

 A board member of Austria’s Public Employment Service (AMS) Johannes Kopf says Austria could return to the pre-crisis level of unemployment by early 2023, Die Presse newspaper reports. To achieve this, the situation in tourism and gastronomy would have to improve and there would have to be “sustainable growth” in the next year.

 Phase out of coal, oil and gas heating 

Environment and finance ministries agreed with the federal states on Monday to gradually ban coal, oil and gas heating, Austria’s Der Standard newspaper reports.

The phase-out should take place in two steps: coal and gas should only be used for space heating until 2035, natural gas until 2040.

 

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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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