Sluggish vaccination campaign: Austria relies on money for a third prick

As of: 12/29/2021 4:59 p.m.

In Austria, vaccinations are making slow progress. Now 500 euro vouchers are supposed to increase the willingness to be vaccinated. Meanwhile, restaurateurs and hoteliers are storming the new curfew.

By Nikolaus Neumaier, ARD Studio Vienna

Although the willingness to vaccinate is increasing in Austria, the vaccination campaign itself is only slowly gaining momentum: At present, 70.6 percent of people living in Austria are fully vaccinated – so there is still a long way to go to achieve the goal of 95 percent that they have set themselves. So vaccination vouchers could soon advance the campaign and spark a new dynamic. In addition, the compulsory vaccination is being prepared. It should come into force on February 1st.

Nikolaus Neumaier
ARD studio Vienna

Vaccination vouchers as an incentive

The idea of ​​a financial reward is not entirely new. Weeks ago, the head of the Social Democrats, Pamela Rendi-Wagner, advocated offering 500 euros to those who can be boosted. Now the government made up of the ÖVP and the Greens is taking up the issue. The Green Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler is open to the idea and does not consider 500 euros to be excessive.

Even before the mandatory vaccination comes into effect on February 1, he would pay out the 500 euro voucher for the third trick: “We should play that through in the government,” he says. Prime Minister Karl Nehammer of the conservative ÖVP also signals approval. He even wants to reward those who have already received the booster vaccination. According to the Chancellor, a voucher should not only be valid for those newly vaccinated, “but of course for everyone who was ready to be vaccinated.”

New campaign in January

At the same time, the information campaign will also be changed. From January, the unifying elements in society will be emphasized. The campaign draws on a successful campaign that already existed in the 1970s, when tolerance towards citizens with a migration background was promoted. The new vaccination campaign now relies on dialogue. The message for Vienna, for example: “I’m a Viennese, you’re a Viennese, vaccinate gemma together.”

Large companies are also involved. The local transport association for the capital, the “Wiener Linien”, the Austrian railway “ÖBB”, but also the telecommunications group “Magenta” have confirmed their support.

Curfew creates trouble

Shortly before the turn of the year, however, the stipulated nationwide curfew at 10:00 p.m. depressed the mood. At midnight, the champagne corks will only pop in private rooms or in hotel rooms. Joint parties in inns are prohibited. The criticism is directed against the Green Minister of Health Wolfgang Mückstein. He had imposed the early curfew on the recommendation of a new advisory body.

To the annoyance of hoteliers and restaurateurs. They call the rule “madness” or “disaster” and accuse the minister of “jeopardizing their livelihoods”. The demand from the industry: The New Year’s Eve curfew should only apply from 1 a.m.

Celebrate in Bavaria?

Hotels and inns fear cancellations because of the early curfew because guests do not feel like having a lonely party in their hotel room. It is possible, according to the assumption, that New Year’s Eve celebrations will now rise in Bavaria or in South Tyrol, where this is possible. The ski areas that are traditionally visited by German holidaymakers are particularly affected: the Salzburger Land, the Arlberg region and, first and foremost, Tyrol.

There they appeal to the Minister of Health for insight. The Tyrolean ÖVP governor Günther Platter speaks of a “hau-jerk action” and calls the decision of the health minister like an attack. The “fight against the pandemic and omicron” will however “not help”. This is one of the reasons why hoteliers speak of an absurd rule that hotel guests can spend the whole day in the sauna and wellness areas without problems, but have to keep their distance in the evening.

Industry warns of existential problems

Landlords and hoteliers now fear that the early curfew on New Year’s Eve could worsen the economic situation. According to a recent survey of 600 accommodation providers, there is at least a 10 to 20 percent drop in overnight stays. At Christmas, bookings would have been 30 to 40 percent below the usual level. The Austrian Chamber of Commerce (WKO) indicates the risk of loss of income for the entire industry as a result of the New Year’s Eve regulation at 40 to 50 million euros.

Virologists have doubts about the measures

Although the early curfew was recommended by the new advisory body of the Austrian federal government, there are also critical voices. The virologist Monika Redlberger-Fritz from the University of Vienna considers the early curfew to be inefficient. According to the doctor, the rule will have almost no influence on the number of illnesses.

The Austrian federal government no longer wants to question the curfew regulation. Chancellor Nehammer explains to the catering industry that the Omikron variant is about protecting people. So stick to the line you have taken. And ÖVP economics minister Margarethe Schramböck refers to the advisory body. Their proposals would now be implemented.

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