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Today in Austria: A round-up of the latest news on Monday



Green passport for Austria and 12 other EU countries

Austria and twelve other EU countries have agreed on seven criteria for the creation of a “Green Passport” for tourism.

The aim is to implement the “Green Pass” quickly and as uniformly as possible at European level, Tourism Minister Elisabeth Köstinger told APA, saying it was a “question of survival” for European tourism.

The twelve other countries are Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain.

There should be no introduction of a compulsory vaccination through the back door, Der Standard newspaper reports.

Intensive care situation continues to worsen

The situation in the Austrian intensive care units continues to worsen, particularly in the east of the country. More than 600 Covid-19 sufferers had to receive intensive care on Sunday, as bad as the situation in December.

In Vienna 243 seriously ill people had to be cared for in intensive care units there, more than ever before, Wiener Zeitung newspaper reports.

Vaccination reaches new milestones in Austria

From Thursday to Saturday last week more than 200,000 people in Austria received a corona vaccination, and over 60,000 people were vaccinated per day for three days in a row.

Last Friday set a new record with 77,036 jabs administered to protect against SARS-CoV-2. The total number of vaccinations given now exceeds two million according to Austria’s coronavirus dashboard.

Work begins on Austria’s ‘comeback plan’

Ministers Martin Kocher (ÖVP), Leonore Gewessler (Greens) and Gernot Blümel (ÖVP) will meet today in the Federal Chancellery to start work on an “economic comeback plan” for the Federal Government. A target has been set for half a million people to be brought back into regular employment within a year.

The plan will be based on “work”, “greening & digitization” and “strengthening the location”, according to Labor Minister Kocher, Der Standard newspaper reports. 

Test requirement dropped for Braunau district

As of Monday, there will no longer be an exit test obligation from the Upper Austrian district of Braunau. The increased test capacities as well as the police’s main checks on the generally applicable Corona rules will be retained for the time being, Der Standard reports.

Infections fall sharply in Schwaz

After more than half of the population of Schwaz received a BioNTech Pfizer vaccination between March 11 and 16, 2021 in a pilot project to combat an outbreak of the South African variant of the coronavirus, there was a significant decrease in infections.

On April 10, the seven-day incidence fell to 80 in Schwaz, while it remains at 180 in nearby Innsbruck-Land and Kufstein, Der Standard newspaper reports.

Criminal procedure change defended by minister

ÖVP Interior Minister Nehammer has defended the planned amendment to the Code of Criminal Procedure on Sunday, according to which the judiciary will in future usually request documents from authorities via administrative assistance and confiscation in a raid should only be possible in exceptional cases.

Nehammer told ORF he could “guarantee” house searches would still be possible, but it was about proportionality, Wiener Zeitung newspaper reports.

Iran talks ‘overshadowed’ by Iranian violations of nuclear agreement

The new attempt at nuclear talks with Iran in Vienna is being overshadowed by Iranian violations of the nuclear agreement, according to media reports. On Saturday, there was an incident in Natan’s nuclear facility shortly after new centrifuges had been put into operation.

Iran’s state TV spoke of a “nuclear terrorist attack”, it is reported. The Israeli radio said that it was a cyber attack by Mossad, Die Presse newspaper reports.

Talks begin to rescue MAN truck plant

Opposition SPÖ leader Rendi-Wagner is calling for a new state investment fund of €10 billion to help rescue the MAN truck plant in Steyr and boost the economy after the pandemic, Der Standard newspaper report. 

ÖVP-Wirtschaftsbund Secretary General Kurt Egger is not in favour of the plan, saying socialist concepts for saving companies have never worked. The plant closure would put 8,400 jobs in the region at risk. Talks will start today on a possible solution. 

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Vienna school under fire for sex ed class using doll for children as young as six



According to Austria’s Kronen Zeitung newspaper, a teacher used a doll to explain “how sex works” to the children, while also encouraging them to use their hands and fingers on the doll. 

She said she wanted to “enlighten” the children about aspects of sex education. The children in the class were between the ages of six and ten. 

The teacher also explained to the children that “condoms should be used if you don’t want to have babies”, the newspaper reports. 

One boy was told to remove the clothes of the doll but refused before being told that he had to do so. 

The boys parents removed him from the school, saying that he was “overwhelmed” after the class and had started touching his sister inappropriately. 

“We have never seen our son like this before, he was completely overwhelmed” the parents said anonymously, “we are taking him out of the school.”

“We can already see the consequences. 

“A few days after these disturbing lessons, a classmate came to us to play. Like many times before, the boy also played with our ten-year-old daughter. This time he suddenly wanted to pull her pants down.

Peter Stippl, President of the Association for Psychotherapy, said that while sex education was crucially important, it needed to be age appropriate in order to be effective. 

“(This type of sexual education) scares the children! They get a wrong approach to the topic and their natural limit of shame is violated,” he said. 

“Sex education must always be age-appropriate and development-appropriate. Many children are six, seven or eight years old – or even older – not interested in sexual intercourse.

“We should never explain sexuality in schools in isolation from love and relationships. It makes you feel insecure and afraid. It harms the development of children.”

The Austrian Ministry of Education will now set up a commission to determine who will be allowed to teach sex ed in schools. 

The city of Vienna is also investigating the specific incident. 

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Madrid’s Retiro Park and Paseo del Prado granted World Heritage status | Culture



Madrid’s famous Retiro Park and Paseo del Prado boulevard have been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The decision, made on Sunday, brings the total number of World Heritage Sites in Spain to 49 – the third-highest in the world after Italy and China.

Up until Sunday, none of these sites were located in the Spanish capital. The Madrid region, however, was home to three: El Escorial Monastery in Alcalá de Henares, the historical center of Aranjuez and the Montejo beech forest in Montejo de la Sierra.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez celebrated the news on Twitter, saying it was a “deserved recognition of a space in the capital that enriches our historical, artistic and cultural legacy.”

Retiro Park is a green refuge of 118 hectares in the center of the city of Madrid. Paseo del Prado boulevard is another icon of the capital, featuring six museums, major fountains such as the Fuente de Cibeles as well as the famous Plaza de Cibeles square.

For the sites to be granted World Heritage status, Spain needed the support of two-thirds of the UNESCO committee – 15 votes from 21 countries. The proposal was backed by Brazil, Ethiopia, Russia, Uganda, Nigeria, Mali, Thailand, Kyrgyzstan, Oman and Saudi Arabia, among others.

Statue of Apollo in Paseo del Prado.
Statue of Apollo in Paseo del Prado.Víctor Sainz

Prior to the vote, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the organization that advises UNESCO, had argued against considering the Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park as one site, and recommended that the latter be left out on the grounds that there were no “historic justifications” for the two to be paired.

This idea was strongly opposed by Spain’s ambassador to UNESCO, Andrés Perelló, who said: “What they are asking us to do is rip out a lung from Madrid. El Prado and El Retiro are a happy union, whose marriage is certified with a cartography more than three centuries old.” The origins of Paseo del Prado date back to 1565, while Retiro Park was first opened to the public during the Enlightenment.

Pedestrians on Paseo del Prado.
Pedestrians on Paseo del Prado. Víctor Sainz

The ICOMOS report also denounced the air pollution surrounding the site. To address these concerns, Madrid City Hall indicated it plans to reduce car traffic under its Madrid 360 initiative, which among other things is set to turn 10 kilometers of 48 streets into pedestrian areas, but is considered less ambitious than its predecessor Madrid Central.

The 44th session of the World Heritage Committee took place in the Chinese city of Fuzhou and was broadcast live at Madrid’s El Prado Museum. Perelló summed up the reasons to include Retiro Park and El Paseo de Prado in less than three minutes.

“When people say ‘from Madrid to heaven’ [the slogan of the Spanish capital] I ask myself why would you want to go to heaven when heaven is already in Madrid,” he told delegates at the event, which was scheduled to take place in 2020, but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Every year, UNESCO evaluates 25 proposals for additions to the World Heritage List. In the case of the Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park, the site was judged on whether it evidenced an exchange of considerable architectural influences, was a representative example of a form of construction or complex and if it was associated with traditions that are still alive today. The famous park and boulevard sought to be inscribed on the UNESCO list in 1992, but its candidacy did not reach the final stage of the process.

Etching of Paseo del Prado from Cibeles fountain, by Isidro González Velázquez (1788).
Etching of Paseo del Prado from Cibeles fountain, by Isidro González Velázquez (1788).Biblioteca Nacional de España

The effort to win recognition for the sites’ outstanding universal value began again in 2014 under former Madrid mayor Ana Botella, of the conservative Popular Party (PP), and was strengthed by her successor Manuela Carmena, of the leftist Ahora Madrid party, which was later renamed Más Madrid. An advisor from UNESCO visited the site in October 2019.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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Ryanair reports €273m loss as passenger traffic rebounds



Ryanair has reported a €273 million loss for its first quarter even as traffic rebounded during the period.

The carrier said it carried 8.1 million passengers in the three month period, which cover April to June. This compares to just 500,000 in the same period a year earlier.

Revenues increased 196 per cent from €125 million in the first quarter of 2020 to €371 million for the same quarter this year. Operation costs also rose however, jumping from €313 million to €675 million.

Net debt reduced by 27 per cent on the back of strong operating of €590 million.

“Covid-19 continued to wreak havoc on our business during the first quarter with most Easter flights cancelled and a slower than expected easing of EU travel restrictions into May and June,” said group chief executive Michael O’Leary.

“Based on current bookings, we expect traffic to rise from over five million in June to almost nine million in July, and over 10 million in August, as long as there are no further Covid setbacks in Europe,” he added.

Ryanair said the rollout of EU digital Covid certificates and the scrapping of quarantine for vaccinated arrivals to Britain from mid-July has led to a surge in bookings in recent week.

First quarter scheduled revenues increased 91 per cent to €192 million on the back of the rise in passenger traffic although this was offset by the cancellation of Easter traffic and a delay in the relaxation of travel restrictions.

Ancillary revenue generated approximately €22 per passenger the company said.

Mr O’Leary foresaw growth opportunities for the airline due to the collapse of many European airlines during the Covid crisis, and widespread capacity cuts at other carriers.

“We are encouraged by the high rate of vaccinations across Europe. If, as is presently predicted, most of Europe’s adult population is fully vaccinated by September., then we believe that we can look forward to a strong recovery in air travel for the second half of the fiscal year and well into 2022 – as is presently the case in domestic US air travel,” he said.

However, the airline warned the future remains challenging due to continued Covid restrictions and a lack of bookings and that this meant it was impossible to provided “meaningful” guidance at the time.

“We believe that full0year 2022 traffic has improved to a range of 90 million to 100 million (previously guided at the lower end of an 80 million to 120 million passenger range) and (cautiously) expect that the likely outcome for the year is somewhere between a small loss and breakeven. This is dependent on the continued rollout of vaccines this summer, and no adverse Covid variant developments,” said Mr O’Leary.

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