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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What are the best Christmas markets in Austria according to the locals?

Although there’s definitely more than a few Austrian Christmas markets that might well be described as tourist traps – a new survey rates which ones are particularly loved by Austrians themselves.

What are the best Christmas markets in Austria according to the locals?

The survey, carried out by consumer group HV Consumer Check with Mindtake Research, finds 82 percent of Austrians will make at least one visit to a Christmas market this year – spending around €400 million combined. Furthermore, the Christmas market Austrians most like to visit is one that’s still very well-known and easily spotted.

The Vienna Christkindlmarkt in front of the capital’s city hall at Rathausplatz is the most-visited and most popular Christmas market in Austria.

The capital is saturated with popular Christmas markets – boasting three out of the survey’s top five. In addition to the Rathaus market taking the top spot, the more traditional Weihnactsmarkt am Spittelberg in Vienna takes fourth place. In fifth place is the Christmas market at Schönbrunn Palace.

With 14 Christmas markets in all, Vienna has more than any city in the EU.

Vienna Christmas markets: The dates and locations for 2023

Vienna seems to have a chokehold on some of the most loved Christmas markets in Austria, but Salzburg and Graz still come in the top five with one apiece.

In second place in Austria overall is Salzburg’s Christkindlmarkt am Dom- and Residenzplatz, just near the city’s main cathedral.

In third place is the Christmas market in Graz’s main square at Hauptplatz.

READ ALSO: When do Austria’s famous Christmas markets open this year?

Why do Austrians visit Christmas markets?

Although there’s no shortage of things to buy, very few Austrians visit Christmas markets to buy gifts – with only 14 percent doing so.

At 79 percent, most do it for the atmosphere. Over half use it as an opportunity to meet friends and family. Around 27 percent buy special sweets or foods that are only available at a Christmas market.