Sebastian Kurz (VP) wants to deliver a hopeful speech to the battered nation at the ceremony for “75 years of the Second Republic” on Monday and, above all, encourage those who went bankrupt because of the corona crisis.
The 75th anniversary of Austria’s declaration of independence and the associated establishment of the Second Republic will be celebrated on the coming Monday. Due to the corona crisis, the planned ceremony will take place in a reduced form this year. Following a long-standing tradition, this day also begins in 2020 with the wreath-laying ceremony of the Federal Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor and the Minister of Defense at the castle gate – this time Sebastian Kurz (VP), Werner Kogler (Greens) and turquoise Claudia Tanner have to do with fewer soldiers of the guard and guard music to take.
New speech on the state of the nation
The ceremony from the Federal Chancellery will be broadcast on ORF from 11:00 a.m. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz will address the population in a 15-minute speech from the Chancellor’s Office. Some details from this speech leaked to the nation on Saturday evening. Sebastian Kurz said it was an anniversary in the middle of a time of crisis “Today”– According to information. Austria “had many successes and wonderful moments, but also always faced challenges and crises together”.
“Will master this crisis”
A few weeks ago, if he had to issue drastic warnings (“We will all know someone who died of Corona”) about the virus, the head of government will now be positive. The Chancellor would like to say “hope and optimism” to the people against the background of the current crisis management, as opposed to the Chancellery “Today” called. Austria will “open a new chapter” at the start of the 76th year of the Second Republic and will also overcome this crisis through “cohesion, hard work and joint efforts”.
“Abandonment demanded a lot from us”
After the phase of “renunciation, deprivation and loneliness that demanded a lot”, according to Sebastian Kurz, “our way back now begins – with gradual upswing in social life and the economy”. For the Federal Chancellor in the coming months it will be a matter of “quickly bringing people back into short-time work and unemployment into full employment” and “helping everyone who has been completely deprived of their economic existence by the virus overnight.” In short: “Companies and their employees now need our full support.”
For this, the government will “work harder” to “make the comeback for Austria together”, Sebastian Kurz wants to tell people in his speech on the state of the nation on Monday, it says.
The Austrian chancellor presents himself on the talk show as a man with the master plan. But then the moderator asks about the Corona hotspot Ischgl.
Malfunctions are rarely a reason to be happy. For Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, exactly one of these came almost as ordered on Thursday evening: Kurz was added to “Maischberger”, initially treated by the moderator herself hospitable, if not even treated with awe: “Austria is moving ahead” and “What can we do with Austria learn? – Questions to the Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz “it said in the introductory story, in relation to the gradual easing of the local Corona curfew, which was after all one of the strictest in Europe.
After a trio of German journalists had chatted a little (as is often the case with this slightly self-referential “press club” touch, unfortunately the renewed Maischberger concept still does not work), the short had the stage for about ten minutes for yourself. Markus Söder, who was supposed to join the group as the second politician, had canceled at short notice, the coalition committee in the Chancellery again took longer.
As always, the man with the master plan acted briefly. The obviously successful measures in Austria are currently not only giving him top popularity figures there. He formulates his answers like a big brother who has some experience ahead of his smaller one, in this case a week ahead of lockdown, and now passes on what he has learned: Austria will gradually “start up” – one of the most used verbs these days, as if the company a Windows computer – “nice and careful, nice and careful”, first with the small shops, then with the big ones, then with the catering trade and the schools.
Kurz warns, however, that the virus has not “disappeared”, it is only “not as widespread” – a wording that is likely to put experts at the forehead, unfortunately one that came up with Dirk Brockmann from the Robert Koch Institute only to the show when the Austrian chancellor was already gone. In short, otherwise known for his love of strong borders, he also campaigned for German summer tourism in his country, saying that he was “very optimistic”. If everything in both countries continues to work as before, you can “drive down” the limits – the picture of the Windows computer is back.
Kurz is annoyed by the “Blame Game”
Since Kurz speaks of tourism, Sandra Maischberger cannot avoid asking about the ski resort Ischgl, which is known throughout Europe as a corona hotspot. Experts from Iceland had already defined this as a “cluster” on March 5 through the European early warning system after numerous tourists from there had returned to the island with a corona infection. However, the ski operation continued until March 15, which led to thousands of other infections. Therefore, Austrian and international media accuse not only Tyrolean local politicians, but also the government in Vienna, of having concealed the events against their better knowledge. The Austrian Consumer Protection Association is currently initiating a class action lawsuit against the Tyrolean authorities and the Republic of Austria.
Maischberger wants to know from Kurz whether “greed for health” has gone in the Ischgl case. Kurz says that any misconduct there, if there was one, would of course be punished, but is then annoyed by the supposed “blame game”, that is, mutual blame that is currently being exchanged worldwide regarding the virus: In Italy, they are “blamed” for Chinese “for the outbreak, Italian ski tourists in Ischgl, in Germany they now want to be infected while on vacation in Austria. That “may all be right”, but “only moderately help us”.
Then he cheerfully went into blaming: he had heard of “studies” according to which the virus had actually spread from Europe to Munich – presumably he was not referring to a study, but to a US Twitter hypothesis -american virus geneticist Trevor Bedford. He did not know whether these “studies” were correct, but he also did not blame anyone in Munich because the pandemic was raging worldwide, there was not “one guilty party” – as if Maischberger had said so.
And now we come to the breakdown in the evening: Maischberger asks how to do it ski-Operation after the Corona Falls became known in Ischgl because I was able to continue for so long – and at that moment it falls Send-Operation, unfortunately, like a Windows computer. When he resumed work, Kurz again pointed out that crimes would of course be cleared up and how quickly his country had reacted, which is why they are in a better position today than other countries: “So we cannot have done everything wrong”.
And after a final question on European solidarity in financial matters (a clear no to euro bonds), the chancellor has already survived the interview. He closes with a smile and says: “Thank you very much and all the best in Germany”.
Coronavirus: Your opinion on the loosening:Readers’ discussion
Vienna In the garden of Mirabell Palace in Salzburg, there was a yawning emptiness on Sunday afternoon – despite the sun and spring-like temperatures. With its view of the Hohensalzburg Fortress and the surrounding Alpine peaks, the complex is usually a magnet for visitors, especially for tourists from nearby Bavaria. But the border with Germany on Walserberg has become a difficult hurdle to overcome.
Austria generally only allows foreigners to enter the country if they can prove at the border that they are not infected by the corona virus. The hotel industry and gastronomy are closed in Salzburg as elsewhere in Austria. The tourism industry as a key industry for Austria as a tourist destination is therefore back to the wall.
The Austrian government wants to react to this as quickly as possible: Despite the restricted freedom of travel, the Alpine Republic is considering opening the borders again to German tourists. Tourism Minister Elisabeth Köstinger proposes a separate agreement with Berlin so that the Germans can spend their summer vacation in Austria unhindered.
“Because we have a relatively good grip on the spread of the corona virus and, as the federal government, can already offer the prospect of easing the measures step by step, we also plan that there will be holiday tourism in the summer,” said Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s confidant (ÖVP) the “Press on Sunday”. The restriction on freedom of travel will remain in the coming months. “But if countries are also on a very good and positive path, such as Germany, there is certainly the possibility that bilateral agreements can be reached,” said Köstinger.
Köstinger left open when there will be a special regulation for tourists from Germany: “There is no deadline, there could be further waves of infection. And then it cannot be ruled out that far-reaching measures will have to be taken again. “
The black and green government in Vienna wants to present a plan at the end of April on how the catering and tourism sector can start up again. Köstinger said that “there will of course be requirements” such as distance and hygiene rules.
Money from German tourists is missing
Meanwhile, Köstinger left open what such a bilateral agreement with the Federal Republic might look like. Health Minister Rudi Anschober of the Greens reacted cautiously to the advance. “The desire for an opportunity for tourism is understandable, but depends on the development of the corona pandemic in Austria and internationally,” said his spokeswoman for the Austrian news agency APA on Sunday.
Austria urgently needs the money of German tourists. The Alpine Republic has been generating over 15 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) in tourism for years. According to Statistics Austria, the turnover of the tourism industry in 2019 was more than 32 billion euros. The Germans with a total of 57 million overnight stays are the largest group of visitors from abroad with a share of over 31 percent.
Because of the negligent handling of ski guests in the Corona crisis, especially in the Tyrolean ski resorts of Ischgl and St. Anton am Arlberg, Austrian tourism had to accept a major loss of image. Consumer advocates are currently preparing an action for damages against Austria on behalf of hundreds of ski tourists.
The country could not pretend that nothing had happened, said Vice Group leader Jörg Leichtfried (SPÖ), referring to the disaster in Tyrolean winter sports resorts such as Ischgl in dealing with the corona virus. “The majority of German infections can be traced back to the late reaction to the illnesses in Ischgl. The work on the Causa Ischgl has not even started, let alone have the lessons learned so far, ”warned the Social Democrat on Sunday. Austria, around ten times smaller than Germany, has so far counted 452 deaths from the corona virus.
Up to a third less income
The pressure on the Austrian government for rapid easing is enormous. Because many hotel owners and innkeepers are already with their backs to the wall over Easter due to the failures. According to experts, the fat years in alpine tourism are over indefinitely.
The Viennese tourism economist Egon Smeral expects international arrivals to decline by around a third this year. “Similar development trends can also be expected for the development of real spending on trips abroad,” said the professor at the private university Modul University Vienna.
The right-wing populists are meanwhile trying to become the advocate of the economic interests of the tourism and catering industry. “I can not and do not want to watch here how to let an important branch of the economy go down the drain,” said the former Vice Chancellor and right-wing populist Heinz-Christian Strache. “Therefore, in the spirit of an alliance of hosts, I am unequivocally calling on the federal government to end the compulsory bans on May 1st.”
The right-wing populist FPÖ demands that the gardens of taverns and cafés be opened immediately. “It’s hard to see why you shouldn’t sit outdoors in warm spring weather when, on the other hand, it is not a problem that people stand for hours in a row at hardware store parking lots,” said fraction leader and ex-interior minister Herbert Kickl.
More: Austria’s Chancellor Kurz is leading the way in loosening the corona.
A first bank robbery with a protective mask, the green of the authorities, Ischgl instead of Ibiza and a saint Sebastian fighting the virus: while Austria comes out of the lockdown, the hour of the dominants strikes. .
Vienna The winter sports Ischgl is a dream in white in the season. The ski slopes of the Silvretta Arena covered with artificial snow are by no means the sole main attraction of the tourist village in the Tyrolean Paznaun Valley.
Après-ski bars like the “Kitzloch” have made Ischgl popular across Europe. But the “Ballermann of the Alps” developed at the beginning of March into a virus thrower for vacationers from all over Europe.
The corona virus took home thousands of infected ski tourists. Austria became an international virus exporter – especially to Germany. Until now, infected ski tourists have had to bear the consequences and damage alone.
But that should change according to the will of the association for the protection of consumer interests in Vienna. “Our goal is to bring an action for damages against the Republic of Austria,” said Peter Kolba, head of the consumer protection association, the Handelsblatt.
The planned class action is directed against the federal authorities, since the Tyrolean healthcare system is also subordinate to them. “We already have 4,500 affected people who have registered with their data about their stay in the ski areas. 2800 of them are from Germany, ”reports the doctor of law.
The tourists affected come from more than a dozen countries from Great Britain to the Nordic countries to the USA, Russia or the United Arab Emirates. “Three vacationers from Ischgl have already died,” reports Kolba. The compensation for the surviving families has not yet been clarified.
“The majority of those affected had to go to a two-week home quarantine after their return from Tyrol. As a result, the self-employed and entrepreneurs were unable to work, ”says the 61-year-old.
A workforce in a laundry in Bavaria was so badly affected that the company could not be continued to operate. “People with symptoms of the coronavirus are entitled to compensation, which must be determined by medical experts,” says Kolba.
Those affected can join the consumer protection association in Vienna for an annual contribution of 30 euros, which then represents their rights through the class action lawsuit. The majority have no legal expenses insurance.
Therefore, the association would use a litigation finance provider who would receive part of the sum of damages in the event of a guilty verdict. This would result in no financial risk for those affected.
Allegation: negligence and abuse of official authority
Preparations for the class action lawsuit against Austria are in full swing. “By Good Friday, more than 500 people affected had authorized us to represent their interests,” reports Kolba. The former member of the National Council has been a battle-proven consumer protector for decades.
He became nationally opposed through his commitment to consumer interests Volkswagen known in the diesel scandal. But a class action lawsuit against Austria is expensive. “We will, however, only bring the class action lawsuits in Vienna to the regional court for civil law matters in a few months, since experience has shown that preparation, research and litigation financing take some time.”
In order to clarify the exact facts, the consumer protection association filed a criminal complaint with the public prosecutor’s office in Innsbruck at the end of March. The criminal complaint is directed against Tyrol with its governor Günther Platter (ÖVP), the health minister Bernhard Tilg (ÖVP), the mayor of Ischgl Werner Kurz (ÖVP) but also against cable car companies such as the Silvretta cable car in Ischgl or the operator of the now notorious bar “Kitzloch”.
In the criminal complaint, which is in the Handelsblatt, the passivity and the ignoring of the authorities in Austria are listed in detail and “negligence” and “abuse of official authority” are diagnosed.
The Tyrolean state government, meanwhile, welcomes the criminal complaint from consumer protection. “It is good that everyone can present facts to the public prosecutor and this will be checked,” said a spokeswoman for the governor Platter on request.
The Mayor of Ischgl, Werner Kurz, denies any wrongdoing. “We have dealt with everything to the best of our knowledge and belief and have immediately implemented all the requirements and regulations of the authorities,” the head of the municipality told ORF and the Austrian news agency APA.
Hope for compromise
The consumer advocate Kolba meanwhile demands to transfer the investigations into Ischgl and other Tyrolean ski resorts with their handling at the beginning of the pandemic from Innsbruck to Vienna. “In Tyrol there is a close connection between politics, economy and authorities”, fears Kolba.
The procedure should be referred to the Vienna Economic and Corruption Prosecutor. The goal is to fully clarify the facts by the public prosecutor. “Those affected want to report as witnesses about the situation at that time in Ischgl and other ski resorts,” says Kolba. The findings should then be used for the claim for damages against the Republic of Austria.
Despite the hardened fronts, the consumer advocate hopes to compromise with the Austrian state in order to compensate those infected in Tyrol as quickly as possible. He would like a round table with the representatives of the country and the republic in order to find a quick solution for those affected at home and abroad. “A comparison would make sense,” said Kolba. “We would like to avoid long-term processes for those affected.”
The Tyrolean state government is now waiting for the threatened class action lawsuit. “Claims for damages are based on legal foundations, which are examined by the relevant experts in individual cases,” said a spokeswoman for the Tyrolean state government in Innsbruck.
The spokeswoman does not see a negligent or irresponsible handling of the pandemic in Tyrol at all: “All those responsible have made decisions to the best of our knowledge and belief based on the information available at the time.” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) has so far avoided the argument, for a suspected failure of the health authorities in the holiday region.
Image damage vs. Amount of damages
According to lawyers, an action for damages, which is dealt with in the first instance by the regional court in Vienna, can take a long time in Austria. Because the jurisdiction is largely lame due to the corona crisis.
It is still completely open how large a compensation sum can be for the affected vacationers from Ischgl, Galtür, St. Anton or Sölden. “The lower limit of compensation for those affected in the Tyrolean ski areas is five million euros,” Kolba estimates.
Compared to the damage to the image for the holiday region Tyrol and the holiday country Austria, this is undoubtedly a very manageable sum.
More: Austria is taking the first steps into a “new normal”: Small shops, DIY stores and garden centers are allowed to open from Easter, and all retail outlets from May. This is well received by the economy.
C.hristoph Hofinger is a man that most Austrians usually only see on election evenings when he forecasts the results in the service of ORF. However, the corona crisis gave Hofinger’s research institute SORA an at least as explosive order: In collaboration with the Red Cross, a representative study was to find out how high the number of people infected with Covid 19 really is. This should enable the government to “see the whole iceberg” of the pandemic for the first time “and not just the tip”, as Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of the ÖVP put it.
It is an approach that has been discussed in Germany for weeks. If you don’t have enough capacity to test the whole population – why not take a sample and extrapolate the result to the whole population. Similar tests are still being planned in Germany.
The results of the so-called “Undisclosed figure study” in front. Christoph Hofinger published together with Austria’s Minister of Science Heinz Faßmann on Friday. The result of the survey among 1544 people: According to the study, the number of infected people is more than three times higher than officially registered. In detail: The proportion of those infected between the ages of 0 and 94 is 0.33 percent. That is around 28,500 people in relation to the Austrian population. At the time of testing, only 8,500 people were officially registered as infected.
So Austria, unlike almost all other countries on earth, does it know how high its unreported figure is? Yes and no Because the range of fluctuation of the study is enormous: the percentage of infected people is somewhere between 0.12 and 0.76 percent, i.e. between 10,200 and 67,400 infected, with a 95 percent probability. The value of 0.33 percent, i.e. 28,500 infected, is the most likely value for the test date April 6.
The sample had already been criticized as too small prior to the study. The great uncertainty in the numbers suggests that it really is. However, the SORA managing directors defended their methodology as a “right compromise”. It would not only have taken longer to test more people, it would also have overloaded Austria’s test capacities. Science Minister Faßmann pointed out, among other things, that the sample of the well-regarded but regionally limited study in Heinsberg in North Rhine-Westphalia was 1,000 people.
The geography professor, originally from Germany, praised the study as an important contribution to improving the database on which the Austrian government makes its decisions in the fight against the corona virus. “We are the first country in continental Europe to be able to present a prevalence study,” said the politician nominated by the ÖVP.
So far, only Iceland has done a similar test. Upon request, the research ministers from Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Italy and Germany informed him that they were planning similar studies. Austria is a “role model and pioneer”. Germany also plans to start representative tests soon. However, the sample should then be significantly larger. There is talk of 100,000 people.
The Minister of Science summarized the conclusions that the Austrian government would draw from the study as follows: “The iceberg is higher than expected and we are not yet on the safe side.”
The number of those actually infected is significantly higher than that of those officially reported as such, but it is still well below one percent of the resident population. And from this low infection status in Austria, it can also be deduced that the country’s immunity status must also still be low – solely due to the relative novelty of the virus ’.
“The study shows us that our measures were the right ones, but we have to keep them for the next few weeks and months,” said Faßmann. “If the established form of social interaction takes place over Easter, it may well happen that due to the 28,000 infected people there will be an exponential growth again.” This could quickly lead to very large numbers again, since it is not yet significant Immunity rate would be slowed down. It must therefore be observed very closely how the gradual easing of the anti-corona measures, which start next week, will affect the infection numbers.
Interview with the European Minister
The liberal opposition party Neos described the study as “a snapshot that says little about the infection”. The tests were important, her health spokesman wrote Gerald LoackerIn order to obtain meaningful data, the same group would have to be tested again and again at short intervals. And “really valid statements would only bring a real test strategy with a combination of PCR and antibody tests.”
Both the science minister and the study authors have always emphasized that the study participants – in contrast to the Heinsberger study – were only tested for their infection status, not for their immunity status. Fassmann said that he would “like to take antibody tests with him for further test waves that were still planned,” but the Medical University of Vienna had not yet been able to give him clear recommendations that were both safe enough and suitable in terms of methodology. The next test round will obviously continue to focus on PCR tests, i.e. throat swabs, restrict.
At the end of his remarks, Christoph Hofinger, the “computer of the nation” again compared his work before Corona. “Unlike an election, we will never be evaluated exactly,” said the social researcher. “Nobody will ever be able to tell us how many people were actually infected at the beginning of April.” However, he promised to publish a study manual over the next few weeks that should enable a “critical and constructive” discussion. The Austrian study is part of a worldwide “struggle for reliable figures” to limit the bandwidth, said Hofinger. “We are happy that we can supply a mosaic stone for this worldwide mosaic.”
FOCUS – The young Austrian head of government was the first in Europe to announce relaxation of containment. The fruit of early action and an epidemic whose virulence has subsided in Austria.
Once is not custom: Austria will celebrate a (modest) resurrection three days after Easter. Wednesday, April 15, the small Alpine republic will give the first signal of deconfinement in Europe. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has announced to his fellow citizens that as of this day, the isolation regime will be relaxed by allowing non-food businesses of less than 400 m² and artisans to reopen.
The staging of this announcement alone illustrated the extreme caution that accompanied it. The young chancellor entered the press conference room wearing a mask like the three ministers by his side. A protection that the four men removed by placing themselves behind the desks equipped with plexiglass screens. And the head of government warned that the easing could be canceled if, during the week, the figures for the epidemic started to rise again.
Early in his decision to lighten the containment system, Sebastian Kurz
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Vienna, Berlin Sebastian Kurz took off his face mask for a moment. The Austrian Chancellor also wants to show himself behind the man-sized glass window as much as possible. He has something important to announce: the gradual start-up of the economy in the corona crisis.
“Our goal is that on April 14, small shops up to 400 square meters as well as DIY superstores and garden centers are allowed to reopen,” says Kurz. “From May 1st, our goal is that all shops, shopping centers and hairdressers are allowed to open again.” Parts of the catering trade will not be able to open again until mid-May at the earliest.
A decision will be made at the end of April, Kurz announces. The head of government can hardly hold back his pride about the “new normal” in Austria when he appears at the Vienna Chancellery.
Austria is the first country in the European Union to reduce draconian measures for the economy in the fight against the corona virus. And Kurz would not be short if he did not use this opportunity for self-praise: “So far, we have weathered the crisis better than most other countries,” says the 33-year-old, who became chancellor at the beginning of the year. “As Austria, we are emerging from the crisis stronger and better than others,” confirms his green Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler almost word for word. The government in Vienna, which came into office in January, wants to sell the gradual easing in trade as a groundbreaking success.
Is Austria a good example for Germany? Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) has always tried in recent weeks to prevent burgeoning exit debates. The Chancellor’s message: Given the increasing number of new infections, it was not time to talk about easing the measures against the corona pandemic. Some see it differently in their party.
North Rhine-Westphalia’s Prime Minister Armin Laschet, who is aiming for the CDU leadership, wrote a long time ago: “The phrase that it is too early to think about an exit strategy is wrong.” to develop the return to social and public life “.
On Monday, Merkel held the first press conference at the Chancellery after the end of her two-week quarantine, which she had gone into after contacting an infected doctor. The Chancellor’s Corona tests were negative.
Merkel did not change her attitude that the announcement of a specific exit date would be counterproductive at the current time. Germany had made progress in the fight against the corona virus, but there was no all-clear, she made clear. The measures apply until at least April 19. “Nothing will change there,” said the Chancellor.
However, the federal and state governments have been working behind the scenes for some time to create the framework for a return to normal. We are looking for an overall concept in which the drastic restrictions can be gradually lifted and the pandemic can be controlled at the same time.
Much depends on increasing the number of intensive care beds and ventilation places in hospitals. The test capacities will also be expanded in order to isolate sick people more quickly. In addition, the contacts of the infected people must be easier to track. The health authorities should receive more staff for this. In addition, a Corona app for smartphones is being developed, with which contact persons of infected people could be identified.
A decision as to whether and when first steps from a state of emergency are possible could be made at the next federal-state round on Tuesday after Easter. Merkel said that health protection “will always be in the foreground, even if public life is opened up”. The health system should under no circumstances be overloaded by seriously ill corona patients.
The headline for the period after the shutdown will therefore be: “We continue to live in the pandemic.” With regard to the decision in Austria, Merkel said: “We have to use our own numbers.” The speed at which the virus in Germany spread out, is still too high.
Austria is more statistically affected by the corona virus than Germany. Nevertheless, according to the government there, the gradual opening of retail has become possible due to comparatively positive developments in the fight against viruses. “We managed to flatten the curve,” said Health Minister Rudi Anschober (Greens). Doubling the number of patients would have increased to 16.5 days.
According to his information, 187 new infections in the past 24 hours were compared to 465 recovered patients. There are currently 250 corona infected patients in intensive care units in Austrian hospitals. “This is only a first stage success. The trend of the past few weeks must continue this week as well, “Anschober said.
With his surprising move, Kurz responded not only to good numbers, but also to political pressure. In Austria, displeasure among many citizens and retailers has increased in recent days. They found the previous regulation, which only allowed supermarkets to be open, to be unfair.
The retail groups with their wide range of products also outside the food sector – from the bouquet of tulips to animal feed and DIY materials – have been doing excellent business in the corona crisis in recent weeks. The small specialist shops, but also garden centers and hardware stores saw themselves at a disadvantage.
In contrast to Germany, there are still numerous owner-operated specialist shops in cities like Vienna, Graz or Salzburg. Their owners belong to the classic clientele of the ruling party ÖVP.
The gradual ramp-up of trade is well received in the economy. “With the gradual relaxation of measures to curb the Covid-19 pandemic announced today, the German government is sending a positive signal with regard to predictability, trust and confidence in people and companies,” said Georg Kapsch, President of the Federation of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs.
Rainer Will, managing director of the trade association. He emphasized: “This is a positive signal for our dealers in terms of predictability and a first important step towards new normality for consumers.”
Austria is also expanding the obligation to wear a mask. The wearing of face masks, which has only been mandatory since Monday when shopping at supermarkets over 400 square meters, is extended to local public transport. According to the Interior Ministry, those who do not wear a mask will be fined 50 euros. In practice, however, the requirement for a face mask does not work well in Austria.
Many supermarkets simply do not have breathing masks for the mouth and nose. “We will do everything we can to meet the requirements of the decree as quickly as possible, but with the best will on April 6, this cannot be implemented for all of our 2,550 locations with 40,000 employees,” said Marcel Haraszti, CEO of Rewe International AG, on Monday. Another problem is that the masks are not given free of charge as announced by the government. For example, Rewe charges one euro per mask.
Many customers meanwhile help themselves by pulling their scarf over parts of the face. Some supermarket visitors also wear self-made or purchased textile masks that are washable and therefore reusable.
The time of suffering will continue for the cultural sector in Austria. The government in Vienna banned all events on Monday until at least the end of June. A relief for the Austrian population is that the state gardens such as Schönbrunn Palace or Belvedere Palace in Vienna are opened again after Easter. More: Austria’s finance minister Gernot Blümel: “Don’t use the corona crisis to implement yesterday’s proposals”. Read more here.
Briefly put the mask behind the protective screen and explain the next steps
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Austria wants to slowly ease its drastic measures in the fight against the corona virus right after Easter. This applies to trading – however, the exit restrictions will be extended until the end of April. Schools will also remain closed until May.
MWith a safety margin and behind a protective screen, Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) takes off his mask and announces the next steps in the corona crisis: after Easter, the slow path back to normal should begin. The aim is that from April 14, small shops as well as DIY and garden centers may reopen under strict conditions, Kurz said on Monday in Vienna. From May 1st, all shops, shopping centers and hairdressers should be allowed to reopen. Hotels and restaurants should follow in the middle of May at the earliest.
The exit restrictions will be extended until the end of April and the schools will remain closed until mid-May. Events should not take place until the end of June. In addition, wearing a face mask will not only be mandatory in supermarkets and drug stores, but also in public transport. This rule should apply from next Monday.
“The quick and restrictive reaction now also gives us the opportunity to get out of this crisis faster,” said Kurz. “However, only if we continue to consistently adhere to the measures and stand together as well as we have done so far.” Especially with a view to Easter, Kurz asked people to avoid further social contacts and keep a distance from each other. He added: “Stay with the people you live with.”
Austria is thus one of the first European countries that want to loosen up their measures in the fight against the corona virus right after Easter. In Denmark, too, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has announced that he will probably want to gradually reopen the country after Easter. However, she has not yet presented a precise plan. In the Czech Republic, minor exemptions for trade are currently being discussed, but the minority cabinet is very controversial on this issue.
Measures in Austria are having an effect
Austria has been running at a minimum since March 16: With the exception of grocery stores and drugstores, the retail trade is closed and all bars and restaurants are closed. In addition, exit restrictions apply; standing together in groups is not permitted. In the particularly affected federal state of Tyrol, quarantine applies to all municipalities until Easter Monday. People are only allowed to leave their place of residence with good reason. In the state of Salzburg, too, communities are under quarantine, including the Saalbach-Hinterglemm, which is popular with winter sports enthusiasts.
Finally, it became clear that these measures are obviously working: The number of confirmed infections with Sars-CoV-2 has only been increasing slowly for several days, the number of Covid 19 patients in the intensive care units has stagnated. As of Monday, 8:00 a.m., there were 12,008 confirmed infections in Austria – this corresponds to around 136 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
The daily rate of increase in new infections was recently around two percent – compared to 20 percent and more at the beginning of the measures in mid-March. Since Saturday, the number of people recovering has also increased faster than that of the newly confirmed cases. Less than three out of 100,000 people in Austria are newly infected with Sars-CoV-2 every day.
Düsseldorf, Vienna Austria strictly rejects corona bonds to cope with the economic crisis triggered by the pandemic. “The crisis should not be used to implement yesterday’s proposals under the guise of the corona crisis,” said Austrian Finance Minister Gernot Blümel (ÖVP) to the Handelsblatt.
There are enough instruments in the euro area, such as the European Central Bank’s (ECB) bond purchase program, to respond to the financial needs of the countries most affected. “Other financial policy instruments have not yet been used, such as the European bailout fund ESM, which worked well in the financial crisis,” said Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s confidant. “With these instruments, we have great financial policy clout. I therefore see no reason in the corona crisis to change the fiscal rules or EU law. “
The ESM has its classic loans and now also the fast lines of credit that the rescue fund wants to set up with fewer conditions in the countries hard hit by the corona crisis. “We should use these existing accelerated credit lines with flexible options in terms of conditions such as strengthening the health system when we need them,” said the Austrian finance minister.
Read the entire interview here:
Minister Blümel, the images from Italy, Spain and France are frightening. Wouldn’t corona bonds be the right sign of fiscal solidarity? It is a crisis that affects the whole world, including the euro zone, of course. I am therefore glad that we have different instruments for such a crisis. The European Central Bank’s bond purchase program, for example. No other fiscal policy instruments have been used at all, such as the European bailout fund ESM, which worked well in the financial crisis. With these instruments, we have great financial policy clout. I therefore see no reason in the corona crisis to change financial policy rules or EU law.
One argument is that no country has to be a supplicant when it comes to Community funding. Nobody runs the risk of missing the petitioner’s stigma. Then the countries should have been seen as supplicants already in the ECB’s bond purchase program. But that was not the case. All euro countries that were supported by the ESM in the financial crisis have come out of this difficult situation well. The ESM has its classic loans and now also the fast enhanced credit lines …
… Lines of credit that the bailout fund wants to set up with fewer conditions in countries that are severely affected by the corona crisis. We should take advantage of these existing accelerated credit lines with flexible options in terms of conditions such as strengthening the health system when we need them.
Are the 410 billion euros of the ESM then sufficient? We first have to look at the financial needs of the countries in the euro zone. At the moment, the ESM loans are not being used for the corona crisis. The ECB’s bond purchases are currently enough to reduce refinancing costs in all countries.
The pressure from Italy, Spain and France is great. Are countries such as Austria, Germany and the Netherlands not at risk of standing there as unsound? I do not believe that the image of an unsolidary Europe in the global crisis is objectively justified. We also have a responsibility towards the citizens in our countries. Austria decided in a referendum in the mid-nineties to join the EU. We should not change existing rules in the EU without necessity.
There seems to be a compromise between Germany and France: Loans from the ESM, loans from the European Investment Bank (EIB) and EU funds to secure unemployment insurance in the Member States. A viable compromise for you? It is a normal process at European political level to have different views and try to find a compromise. It is important that the compromise is based on European law and that no attempt is made to bend or even break European law. And the crisis should not be used to implement proposals from the day before yesterday under the guise of the corona crisis.
Do you mean specifically European unemployment reinsurance? Yes. Austria cannot go along with this construct, as it is currently on the table.
Would you like loans via the EIB as a building block? In principle yes and this component is already available. Whether we agree to another EIB instrument depends on the exact concept and the amount.
The Netherlands is also proposing a health fund that does not provide loans but non-repayable aid. Is that in your mind? The debate shows that Austria, Germany and the Netherlands are willing to be flexible to help all countries in need. But the same applies here: there are a lot of instruments to respond to the corona crisis and you should try to avoid duplication.
How much is the stability of the euro area at risk? We are dealing with a global crisis. I don’t see any specific challenges for the euro area.
Will the corona crisis become the EU crisis with border closures, mask export bans and national solo efforts? I warn against looking for the problem in European construction. The United States, in each state, has different curfew policies against the pandemic.
But is the European response coordinated enough? We do not have this impression … The question is, what could the European level have done better so far? In the economic field, each EU country has different problems to deal with and different approaches to help its own companies. I doubt that there can be a single answer from the European level. But that also means that we must not blame the emerging problems on the EU.
The emergency measures to contain the virus are weighing on the economy. What is your position in the discussion about normalization? It is certainly one of the greatest challenges to judge when the time is right to gradually return to normal. The basic prerequisite for this is that the new infections are reduced massively, we have the virus under control, the health system is not overloaded, doctors do not get into the situation, having to decide who gets the essential treatment and who does not. Once we have that level of infection, we can talk about how to get back to normal.
Do you see the level reached soon? It is certainly too early to talk about such a schedule at the moment. We are currently running a study in Austria for which we representatively test 2000 people on corona in order to be able to draw conclusions about how the virus has spread among the population and how high the number of unreported cases is. This should help us decide whether there is an opportunity to move to a reopening schedule or whether it is still too early for that.
Partial nationalization of companies is part of the rescue toolkit in many countries. Are we losing a bit of liberalism? Nationalizations are currently not an issue in Austria. We are convinced that we can overcome the corona crisis with our € 38 billion protective shield for the Austrian economy. But in such a crisis there must be no prohibitions on thinking. New situations are constantly emerging. So I don’t rule anything out. However, there are of course some effects of the crisis that will shape our economy and society over the years.
What do you see above all? I am thinking primarily of consumer behavior. We are now learning to keep our distance from other people and to move more in the digital space, to use online offers more intensively. This usage behavior will partly continue after the crisis. That will change the economy, but I do not expect that we will throw basic principles of economic action overboard. Because the crisis is a limited period – and we hope that we will soon be able to overcome it.
Thank you for the interview.
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