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.

Stefansdom Cathedral
Stefansdom Cathedral. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Decision day for Vienna

Vienna will decide today whether to extend the strict lockdown past May 2nd. Mayor Michael Ludwig will consult with experts from the health sector in the morning and then announce the next steps.

He has not ruled out extending the lockdown if hospitals continue to struggle with high numbers of intensive care patients, broadcaster ORF reports. 

READ MORE: ‘Nothing worse than being hasty’: Vienna considers lockdown beyond mid May

Extra vaccine appointments

The City of Vienna has made 35,000 additional vaccination appointments available today for high-risk groups as well as, for the first time, patients with a psychiatric illness, broadcaster ORF reports.

Vorarlberg “struggling” with large numbers of infections 

Vorarlberg, the only state in Austria to open its restaurants and events with a testing requirement since March, is experiencing a sharp rise in the number of coronavirus infections. 

Regional Councilor Martina Rüscher has met with mayors from the region to discuss new mask and test requirements which will apply from Tuesday. In both the Bregenzerwald and Lustenau, all upper school classes will return to distance learning from Tuesday.

An exit test has been mandatory for the Bregenzerwald valley with around 32,000 inhabitants since April 20, after the 7-day incidences rose above the 1,000 mark in some locations. However, there is still enough capacity in intensive care units, broadcaster ORF reports. 

Green card plans revealed

A green passport is to be introduced in Austria in mid-May as an access card for those who have been vaccinated, tested and recovered, Der Standard newspaper reports.

From June, the evidence will be collected in a nationally valid QR code until the European green passport is introduced in summer.

‘Legally and ethically justifiable’ to exempt vaccinated people from restrictions

Holding a vaccination certificate should give people greater access to restaurants or concerts hall in the future,  according to the Bioethics Commission of the Federal Chancellery, the Wiener Zeitung newspaper reports.

The committee found it was legally and ethically justifiable to exempt vaccinated people from “certain restrictions that serve to curb the spread of Covid-19”.

The committee also said as soon as the main reason for the lockdown – the threatened collapse of the health system – ceased to exist, the state must take back the restrictions on freedom. 

Chamber of Labour advocates reduction in working hours

The Chamber of Labor (AK) advocates a reduction in working hours with full wages due to mass unemployment, Der Standard newspaper reports.

The head of the AK’s social policy department, Silvia Hruska-Frank, says the redistribution of work could create jobs for the unemployed and relieve the workforce.

Fewer people drinking beer 

The closure of bars, inns and restaurants in the corona pandemic led to a significant decline in beer consumption in Europe last year, according to the Wiener Zeitung newspaper.

Compared to 2019, the total amount of beer sold in 2020 fell by 34 million hectoliters or 9 percent, according to figures from The Brewers of Europe announced on Monday. In addition around 800,000 jobs were lost in catering and sales. 

Fuel is cheaper in Austria

Fuel is cheaper in Austria than in most other EU countries, as Austria has not increased fuel tax since 2011, the Wiener Zeitung newspaper reports. Austrian Transport Club (VCÖ) expert Michael Schwendinger said in a press release on Monday that even adjusted for inflation, fuel is cheaper today than it was 35 years ago.

Environment Minister Gewessler wants to include automatic tax increases on fuel in the planned climate protection law, should the CO2 emissions deviate from the climate targets set. 

This could  lead to an increase in the price of diesel by around 20 cents and gasoline by 24 cents. Even with that, however, diesel would still be more expensive in six and gasoline in nine other EU countries than in Austria (based on current prices).

READ MORE: Cost of living: Seven tips to save money in Austria

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Terror threat in Vienna: Syrian communities said to be targeted

Austrian police have released few details on the terror threat alert but confirmed that the threat level is still considered elevated, particularly concerning Syrian institutions.

Terror threat in Vienna: Syrian communities said to be targeted

Vienna police have confirmed that the terror threat is still considered to be elevated in the Austrian capital. 

In particular, due to the anniversary of the civil war in Syria, the authorities consider that primarily Syrian communities and institutions are threatened, according to a short statement on Twitter. The preventive measures ordered by the Vienna Regional Police Directorate will therefore remain in place for the time being.

“As soon as the respective assessments indicate an easing of the situation, we will be able to reduce our security measures”, the police said.

On Wednesday, Vienna authorities announced its Directorate for State Security & Intelligence received information that an “Islamist-motivated attack” was planned in Vienna and decided to increase surveillance and guards in specific points in the capital, as The Local reported.

In a short post on Twitter, the police said that, because of that, uniformed police forces are visible in public space, consisting of district forces and special opration forces WEGA and EKO Cobra.

“The duration of this increased property protection cannot be estimated at this time.”, the police said. 

It added: “If there is a specific danger to the population at a specific location, the LPD Vienna will immediately issue a warning via all available channels.

Interior Minister Gerhard Karner (ÖVP) did not provide any information on the threat situation in Vienna on Thursday morning when asked during a media appointment when he visited the Cybercrime Competence Center of the Federal Criminal Police Office. Instead, he referred to the communication by the provincial police directorate, broadcaster ORF reported.