Austria

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Investigators search Austrian Finance Minister Gernot Blümel's private address
Investigators search Austrian Finance Minister Gernot Blümel's private address
Credit: Bundesministerium für Finanzen / via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

The Economic and Corruption Prosecutor's Office (WKStA) has conducted a "voluntary inspection" at Finance Minister Gernot Blümel's (ÖVP) private home address. This was confirmed by the minister's office on Thursday. He had been questioned about the casino case, after which he was presented with the search warrant, it said. Blümel had then agreed to a "voluntary inspection", otherwise a house search would have been implemented.

Blümel said he now knows the allegations after a conversation with the public prosecutor's office, "these can be cleared up in a few words." Apparently, it is about potential party donations of the gambling company Novomatic to the ÖVP: "No donations from Novomatic were accepted," Blümel stressed.

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Austria eases lockdown restrictions; imposes stricter border controls
Austria eases lockdown restrictions; imposes stricter border controls
Credit: unsplash/Jacek Dylag

Austria has eased national lockdown restrictions, starting today. Non-essential shops, museums and libraries can reopen its doors with mandatory FFP2 masks for both guests and employees and a limited number of people. Hairdressers and other beauty-related services can reopen as well but, additionally to FFP2 masks, clients are required to produce a negative Covid-19 test result not older than 48 hours.

Hotels, restaurants, bars and cafes, as well as sports and other leisure facilities, will not be reopening this week.

The government has further imposed stricter entry and quarantine rules for travellers, including producing a negative Covid-19 result and committing to self-quarantine for 10 days.

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Austria announces easing of Covid-19 lockdown

Starting Feb. 8, there will be face-to-face classes for elementary school students, shift work in lower and upper grades and regular testing for students.

The first steps towards opening up the hard lockdown have also been taken in the retail sector, museums and zoos. There, as in the food trade, there will be an FFP2 mask obligation. Also, only a few customers will be allowed into the stores. There must be 20 square meters of space per customer.

Entry requirements, however, will be tightened. A negative Covid-19 test result will be mandatory to be allowed into the country.

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Austria deports schoolgirls amid protests
Austria deports schoolgirls amid protests
Credit: Courtesy of Twitter

Three schoolgirls and their family members were deported to Georgia and Armenia in the early morning hours Thursday. The children were born and raised in Austria, and protests had formed against the deportation.

ÖVP security spokesman Karl Mahrer defended the deportations in advance by referring to the current legal situation. He rejected the idea of facilitating access to citizenship for children born in Austria.

Politicians from the SPÖ, Neos, and Greens had previously joined the protests against the deportation.

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Austrian mayors got leftover Covid vaccines, accused of "queue-jumping"
Austrian mayors got leftover Covid vaccines, accused of "queue-jumping"
Credit: Illustration: Pendect, Ashley Winkler. (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

In several Austrian provinces, including Tyrol, Carinthia, Vorarlberg and Vienna, several politicians, municipal employees and relatives were injected with leftover Covid-19 vaccine doses meant for residents and staff at elderly care homes.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz sharply criticised the behaviour.

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Austria extends lockdown to February 7, mandates FFP2 masks
Austria extends lockdown to February 7, mandates FFP2 masks
Credit: Herzi Pinki, via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

The Austrian government has extended the nationwide lockdown to February 7, citing the new mutation B.1.1.7 that was first discovered in the United Kingdom and the daily case count of well over 1000 newly confirmed infections. Chancellor Kurz promises "complete normality" until summer and warned that "we still have two to three tough months ahead of us".

FFP2 masks will be mandatory in all stores and on public transport and strongly recommended everywhere else from January 25 on. Starting February 8, non-essential businesses will be able to reopen while hotels, restaurants and the cultural sector will have to remain closed awaiting further evaluation in February.

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Austria extends Covid-19 lockdown until at least February 7th

In Austria, the lockdown will be extended for the time being by two weeks until February 7. After that, the government announced in a press conference that there could be some initial easing. Trade and museums are then likely to reopen under strict conditions.

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Hundreds of British tourists disappeared from Swiss quarantine
Hundreds of British tourists disappeared from Swiss quarantine
Credit: unsplash.com / Catharina Short Sundberg

Hundreds of British tourists have disappeared during the night from the Swiss ski resort Verbier despite being in mandatory quarantine because of the new Covid-19 variant.

Authorities had identified 420 guests from Britain who had been quarantined before Christmas, he said. About 50 left immediately, he said, and of the 370 others, less than a dozen were still there on Sunday.

Some have since reported back from France, Jean-Marc Sandoz, spokesman for the municipality of Bagnes, to which Verbier belongs, said today.

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First ski resorts in Austria closed due to overcrowding
First ski resorts in Austria closed due to overcrowding
Credit: unsplash.com / Joel Tasche

Although Austria is once again in lockdown, many ski lifts were allowed to open. After a rather quiet start on Christmas Eve and the first holiday, it became more crowded in the ski resorts from the second holiday onwards - too crowded in times of the Covid-19 pandemic, where keeping your distance is the order of the day.

On Sunday, so many people made their way towards the slopes that even some ski resorts pulled the emergency brake and closed down. Already in the morning, the ski resorts at Hauser Kaibling as well as St. Jakob im Walde in Styria closed due to overcrowding, further guests were not allowed to arrive.

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Austria goes into its third hard lockdown
Austria goes into its third hard lockdown
Credit: unsplash.com / Ashley Winkler

The Austrian government has imposed the nation's third lockdown, starting on Saturday 26, after giving people looser rules over the Christmas holidays. From Saturday on, all non-essential business and in-person education will remain closed until at least January 18 and people will not be allowed to leave their homes except for "necessary basic needs of life", exercise, work and health reasons.

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Austria imposes third hard lockdown starting December 26
Austria imposes third hard lockdown starting December 26
Credit: Illustration by Ashley Winkler for Pendect (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

The Austrian government has announced the nation's third lockdown, starting on December 26 and lasting until January 18. Restaurants, museums, beauty establishments and schools will remain closed. Starting on January 18, the federal government is planning to make it compulsory for customers to show a negative Covid-19 test when entering a shop or restaurant, and the police are also to carry out random checks.

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Austrian job offensive to bring 100,000 nursing staff by 2030
Austrian job offensive to bring 100,000 nursing staff by 2030
Credit: unsplash.com / Georg Arthur Pflueger

The federal government of Austria has launched a job offensive together with the Public Employment Service (AMS), as Health Minister Rudolf Anschober (Greens) and Labor Minister Christine Aschbacher (ÖVP) explained at a press conference on Monday.

Anschober stated that "our goal is to gradually gain 100,000 new employees by 2030". One way to achieve the needed increase personnel will be through through retraining of people from other professions.

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Austria to ease lockdown restrictions on Monday; quarantine mandatory for arriving travellers
Sebastian Kurz
Sebastian Kurz Credit: Пресс-служба Президента России (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

Austria will ease its lockdown measures on Monday, reopening stores, museums and schools while hotels and gastronomy have to remain closed until January 7th. The 24-hour-lockdown is being lifted, but a nighttime curfew between 8 pm and 6 am will still apply. Ski slopes will be opened on December 24th "so that the Austrian population has the chance to engage in sporting activity over the holidays."

Starting mid-December, arriving travellers will have to go into quarantine for 10 days but will be able to take a free test after five days and can leave quarantine early if the test comes back negative. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz appeared to blame Austrian residents with family abroad for bringing back the virus to Austria after returning from visits at the end of the summer, sparking criticism in the country.

"We had very, very low infection rates in the summer after the lockdown, and then the virus brought back into the country by people returning from their home countries, especially those who had spent the summer in their countries of origin," so Kurz.

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Austria to start Covid-19 mass testing on Dec 2
The Karl-Marx Halle in Vienna, Austria – one of the three major testing locations
The Karl-Marx Halle in Vienna, Austria – one of the three major testing locations Credit: Gugerell, via Wikimedia Commons (cropped) (Creative Commons CC0 Waiver)

The Austrian government has announced that it will start mass testing its population on December 2, starting with the capital Vienna, followed by six other states. In Vienna, a total of 1.2 million tests will be provided at three major locations with the support of the Federal Armed Forces. Appointments can be made online and Health City Councillor Peter Hacker (SPÖ) predicts a total of 150.000 daily tests.

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Austrian town "Fucking" to be renamed "Fugging"
Austrian town "Fucking" to be renamed "Fugging"
Credit: Official Website

The local council has decided to change the name of the 106-soul village from "Fucking" to "Fugging". Mayor Andrea Holzner (ÖVP) has stated "Yes, I can confirm that this renaming will take place, but I really don't want to say any more about it. We have already had enough media hype in the past".

The new name is said to take effect on January 1st in 2021.

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Austria to start Covid-19 mass testing on Dec 5th
Austria to start Covid-19 mass testing on Dec 5th
Credit: unsplash/Mufid Majnun

Austria is planning to begin Covid-19 mass testing on December 5th, starting with teachers, police forces and communities with high infection rates. Seven million tests have been ordered so far and the government has mobilized both armed forces and forces to help with testing.

According to health minister Rudolf Anschober, the decisive factor is "that the tests do not create a false sense of security, but that they are accepted not as a substitute but as an additional measure to social distancing, masks and proper hygiene.

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Austrian government announces hard lockdown starting on Nov 17th, hopes for "mood of solidarity"
Closed café during lockdown in Vienna
Closed café during lockdown in Vienna Credit: Herzi Pinki, via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

The Austrian government has announced a "hard lockdown" starting November 17th to contain rising numbers of Covid-19 infections. The country has seen an increase in cases in recent weeks, averaging over 7000 daily cases in the past seven days. Aa partial lockdown was introduced two weeks ago but was deemed ineffective in stopping the spread of the virus.

The new and stricter measures, which will be in effect until at least December 6th, include the closing of schools and all non-essential businesses as well as a 24-hour curfew. People are urged to stay inside their homes except for a few exceptions, e.g. for emergencies, job-related purposes, "necessary basic needs of daily life", help and care of family members and "physical and mental recovery". Restaurants, gyms and museums have already been closed since early November. 

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9,262 new Covid-19 infections in Austria

Austria has recorded 9,262 new Covid-19 infections over the past 24 hours, including late reports of new infections from the last few days due to technical problems in the reporting system.

Health Minister Rudolf Anschober appeals to operators and customers of shopping centers to adhere to Covid-19 regulations, after pictures of people crowded together in shopping centers surfaced.

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Austrian President Van der Bellen in hospital after pelvic injury
Austrian President Van der Bellen in hospital after pelvic injury
Credit: Peter Lechner / via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution 2.5)

The Austrian Federal President suffered a painful pelvic injury in a fall in his second official residence. According to the statement, Van der Bellen will stay in the hospital for the next few days for pain therapy, but an operation is not necessary. "The Federal President is otherwise in good spirits", according to a statement.

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14 Arrests after Vienna attack

The man accused of carrying out the attack is a 20-year-old "Islamist terrorist" who was released early from jail in December 2019. Police have carried out a series of raids and made 14 arrests in the hours since a gunman murdered four people in the heart of Vienna.

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Terrorist in Vienna, three dead and several injured
Terrorist in Vienna, three dead and several injured
Credit: Courtesy of Twitter

Update: The police have stated that during a terrorist attack in Vienna at least three people have been killed and several people have been injured.

There is at least one perpetrator who has been shot by police forces, there is the possibilty of additional perpetrators.

The confirmed shooter had been armed with an assault rifle.

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Austria goes into 4-week partial lockdown starting Tuesday, imposes curfew and restrictions on private gatherings
Sebastian Kurz
Sebastian Kurz Credit: EU2017EE Estonian Presidency (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

Starting Tuesday, November 3, Austria enters its second lockdown which is set to last until November 30. Newly imposed restrictions include a nightly curfew from 8 pm to 6 am during which citizen are not allowed to leave their homes except for emergencies, job-related purposes, "necessary basic needs of daily life", help and care of family members and "physical and mental recovery". Restaurants, bars and gyms must be closed, and all events will be cancelled throughout November. The Austrian government has further introduced a "two-household-rule", meaning gatherings are restricted to a maximum of six people from not more than two different households.

"We are aware that these measures are unpopular", said Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) on Saturday.

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Austrian chancellor considers second lockdown as a measure of last resort
Austrian chancellor considers second lockdown as a measure of last resort
Credit: Bundesministerium für Finanzen, via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz has stated that he considered a second lockdown as a measure of last resort to contain the further spread of Covid-19 and prevent hospitals reaching capacity.

"We have a massively increasing, exponential growth. It is an extreme challenge. The situation is very, very serious, even for those who still refuse to believe it," so Kurz.

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Austria reports 2,435 Covid-19 cases, highest daily record
Newly identified cases of confirmed SARS-CoV2 infection per day of diagnosis in Austria.
Newly identified cases of confirmed SARS-CoV2 infection per day of diagnosis in Austria. Credit: AGES Dashboard

Austria has recorded new 2,435 Covid-19 cases over the past 24 hours on Thursday, its highest daily record since the start of the pandemic. The country has seen a steady increase in cases since September,

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Over 8,800 descendants of NS victims show interest in Austrian passport
Over 8,800 descendants of NS victims show interest in Austrian passport
Credit: Österreich man / Public domain (Public Domain)

Since September 1, descendants of victims of the Nazi regime with foreign citizenship have been able to obtain Austrian citizenship by means of a so-called notification. As of Thursday, Austrian representations abroad have already received almost 8,800 inquiries via the online questionnaire provided for this purpose, as the Foreign Ministry informed the Austrian Press Agency upon request.

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Austria triples expenditures for security of Jewish institutions

Instead of the current funding contract, the Austrian government plans on determining the funding for the security of Jewish institutions by law in the future.

In addition, it is planned that the founding will be more than tripled to around €4 million.

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Austria reports first Covid-19 cases in schools days after reopening
The Andersen Kindergarten in the Hügelpark in Hietzing, Vienna
The Andersen Kindergarten in the Hügelpark in Hietzing, Vienna Credit: Herzi Pinki (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0)

According to a spokesperson of the government "there are no major clusters at educational institutions" after three cases of Covid-19 have been reported in three different schools in Vienna and 13 cases at multiple kindergartens.

The classmates of the infected students now need to go into quarantine for ten days since their last contact with the infected person.

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Austria starts regular operation of facial recognition technology

After an approximately one-year trial period the facial recognition system of the Ministry of the Interior of Austria has went into regular operation.

According to the ministry the system has been used 581 times so far and 83 criminal suspects have been identified by the software.

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Austrian Chancellor Kurz announces that he wants to "prevent another lockdown"
2020 Sebastian Kurz Ministerrat am 8.1.2020 - adaption: Added background and blur
2020 Sebastian Kurz Ministerrat am 8.1.2020 - adaption: Added background and blur Credit: Bundesministerium für Finanzen (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

The Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has announced in a statement that during the next week "further measures" will be decided on with the goal to "prevent another lockdown". According to him at this point there is more information about the Covid-19 virus that enables "accurate measures".