As of May 20th, 2020
Cautious exit, inclusive recovery
As Austria´s government continues the relief of Covid-19 measures, businesses, restaurants,
schools and childcare facilities, services and spaces in the cities and regions of the country
re-open again step-by-step. The city of Vienna has decided to go for a cautious and inclusive
exit and recovery strategy, accompanied by increased testing of staff in critical
infrastructure, schools as well as child care facilities, and rapid detection of new infection
spots. However, this is overshadowed by political debates that are due to upcoming
municipal elections, leading contradictory statements by different members of the national
government about Vienna´s capacity to manage recovery. While the Minister of Health
reports excellent cooperation with Vienna and a good handling of the crisis, the Minister of
the Interior repeatedly accuses the city of being reluctant to share information and to work
together with the police. Mayor Michael Ludwig has shown irritation and rejected criticisms:
“Contradictory statements on the management of the Covid-19 situation unsettle our
citizens. This is exactly what cannot be allowed to happen now. It is important to bring the
country through this difficult time with calm and deliberation.”
One big hotspot for infections has been detected and followed up fast, with first cases
found in a home for refugees in April. However, contact tracing showed clear indication that
a mail distribution centre in Hagenbrunn, a small town in Lower Austria, or the contract
employment agencies were the triggers. Only ten percent of those affected in Vienna
apparently showed symptoms. On Sunday, Vienna City Councillor for Health, Peter Hacker,
presented a first analysis of the current cluster of coronavirus infections: “A close
examination of the latest figures showed that many of the workers working in the mail
distribution centre live in Vienna. Contract work is apparently a big problem in this context.
This had nothing to do with refugees. Most of the cases, for example in the home for
refugees in Vienna, could be traced back to the postal distribution centres – and not vice
versa.” Hacker explained that the city changed its testing strategy to target larger facilities
at an early stage instead of waiting for an infection being reported. In this context, he sees
the issue of contract work as a more serious problem: “People don’t go on sick leave
because then they don’t get any more money. They don’t call in when they are sick. So it’s
fatal if they’re together in the company bus or in the staff room,” said Peter Hacker. Vienna
will therefore take a closer look at the topic of contract work and precarious employment in
Current key figures from Vienna
As of May 20th there are 3.020 confirmed cases of the disease in Vienna, 2.405 people have
recovered. 144 people died due to Covid-19; since more than one week, no new fatalities due
to Covid-19 have been reported. Around 50.000 people in Vienna lost jobs and currently,
270,000 Viennese are registered for short-time work. Most affected sectors are tourism,
catering, trade and construction. The increase in unemployment among young people is
above average, leading city government to develop more support in this field.
Health and social care
The social affairs department ensured its services to its 133,000 users during the crisis
by extending the duration of expiring social benefits; an automatic procedure and
postponed controls were set up, allowing everyone in need to get their social
allowances and stay financially stable. Communication in the main languages of
Vienna´s diverse population reached out to all concerned citizens (12.5.).
Recent data analysis of Vienna´s department for statistics shows that there is no
excess mortality rate in Vienna; the mortality rate has stayed in a normal range (11.5.).
Vienna Hospitals: Giving birth under normal circumstances is possible; there is no
need to wear a facemask (9.5.).
City of Vienna accelerates corona tests: tests of teachers and healthcare sector
workers are increased (8.5.).
Relaxed rules for visiting nursing homes: From May 4th, visiting family members and
friends in residential homes and nursing homes is allowed again, guidelines are
established to control the visits (29.4.).
Vienna Hospitals: Cancer patients get unrestricted treatments under safe conditions
24h-caregivers, mainly women from countries as Rumania, Slovakia and Hungary,
who had to extend their stay receive a bonus of 500 Euros (27.4.).
Public services: energy, water, waste and transport
In time with the rising temperatures, Vienna’s drinking fountains will be turned up
again from 4 May. The commissioning of all fountains will take a few days. Then free
spring water will flow out of about 1,000 drinking fountains from the mountains.
People are asked not drink directly from the drinking fountains, but to fill a bottle
they have brought with them. The 55 monumental and memorial fountains will also
be put back into operation (4.5.).
© Wiener Wasser/Novotny
Vienna is well-known for its excellent water quality: now, the 1000 drinking fountains
are operational again. They can be found on an interactive website:
Normal intervals for public underground have started on May 11th, and on May 18th,
for busses and trams (4.5.).
Student semester tickets for the “Wiener Linien”, public transport, are valid until
September 30th (3.5.).
Vienna´s first pop-up bike lane opened on Praterstraße in the second district; as it
used a former lane of cars, this lead to a lot of discussions (7.5.).
The short-term parking zone regulation is on force again from April 27th; also for
parking garages, the normal rates will be valid again (24.4.).
Helping the economy and people to keep jobs
Gastro vouchers for Vienna´s citizens: In order to support the Viennese gastronomy
up to 50 Euros will be given to every household. In total, the City of Vienna provides
40 million Euros for this campaign to help and support the Viennese gastronomy. The
citizens can redeem these vouchers for food and non-alcoholic beverages (13.5.).
The Vienna Employment Promotion Fund (waff) is the City of Vienna’s labour market
organization. It is currently urgently seeking applicants who wish to start training to
become home care, nursing assistants and social workers, all careers leading to safe
Vienna companies can apply for tax relief for Vienna provincial and municipal taxes.
Among other things, deferrals or instalment payments are possible upon request;
there will be no surcharges for late payment, interest on deferral and late payment
penalties, as decided by the legislative assembly of the city on April 30th (30.4.).
The guarantee scheme for companies was doubled – the aid package for bridging
loans was increased to 20 million Euros (26.4.).
Housing and homelessness
Vienna´s 1st Municipal Housing Choir (1. Wiener Gemeindebau-Chor) invites to sing
along since April 15th. Instructions are published weekly for download on
mitsingen-ein and on the YouTube channel “wohnpartner wien”, so that a new
song can be rehearsed every week. Participating is very easy: listen to the
instructions, open or print out the sheet music and you can sing along.
© Wohnpartner Wien/Screenshot
Education, arts and culture
Schools in Vienna open in 3 stages: on May 4th, school-leavers about to graduate, as
well as for apprentices in their final year return to school. As of May 18th, children up
to 14 years of age, i.e. all classes of primary schools, new secondary schools, lower
secondary schools, special schools and all German language classes start again. From
June 3rd, school students of the higher school levels, return. Classes are divided into 2
groups of about 11 children each, unless the class is already small enough. These
groups are taught in their classrooms, but alternately in shifts. There will be no crossclass
lessons or project work. If possible, it is recommended that classes start at
staggered intervals. This will result in different break times and class ends. Although
the information from the national government came on a very short notice, the city
had very quickly ordered around 100,000 masks for kindergartens and schools as
well as 30,000 children’s masks, disinfectants, etc. (3.5.).
Phased plan for child care facilities: Starting from May 4th, kindergartens are
gradually opened again for children under certain circumstances (23.4.).
Music schools open again: Lessons with physical presence start again on May 18th,
initially only one-to-one lessons are possible (13.5.).
Libraries open again from May 18th: For the moment only borrowing and returning
books is possible, there are renewal offers for new customers of the Viennese
Communication, citizen engagement and neighbourhood initiatives
At the first children’s press conference on corona in the Vienna City Hall on May
14th, the focus was on questions from children. In the city hall´s huge ballroom, where
the press conferences of the city government take place usually now, Mayor Michael
Ludwig and City Councillor Juergen Czernohorszky, responsible for children and
youth, answered the questions of young citizens between 4 and 10 years of age sent
in previously by video (14.5).
The city undertook an online survey with more than 1.000 citizens aged 16 and over,
which showed great satisfaction with the services provided by Vienna in the context
of the corona pandemic. The way the City of Vienna is dealing with the current
situation was assessed positively:
o 43,4 % are of the opinion that Vienna handles the current situation and the
measures “much better” or “somewhat better” than the rest of Austria. 41,6%
conceded “equally good handling”.
o 59,8 % are “very or rather satisfied” with the crisis communication/information
provided by the city, while 16,2% are “less satisfied or not satisfied at all”. 69,1
% of the respondents feel sufficiently informed, almost a third of all
respondents give the best value “yes, definitely”.
o The information prepared by the City of Vienna in the various media channels
is rated by 77,0 % as “very useful or useful”, by 74,2 % as “very comprehensive
or comprehensive” and by 73,1% as “very credible or credible”.
o 66,7 % are “very or rather satisfied” with the crisis management of the City of
Vienna. 79,4 % also trust that Vienna will master the Corona crisis and 50 %
are of the opinion that the current situation will strengthen social cohesion in
More room outdoors
Open child and youth work starts again: “wienXtra”, the organization for all children
and young people in Vienna, offers a range of services, as festivals, concerts, movies,
games and media – und this invites young citizens to join and shape the city. Ten
facilities offer lots of information, events, educational services and advice as well as
adult education programmes– at low cost or free of charges. As of May 15th there will
be a focus on public space and wienXtra initiatives re-opened (7.5.).
As of 15th May, the city administration gradually increases its normal contacts with
customers. “Face-to-face” are only provided after prior appointment reservation.
Appointments can be made online via a newly set up online appointment calendar, by
phone or e-mail directly with the responsible office.
Clear rules have been established to protect both customers and staff from risks; as
keeping a distance of 1 m between all persons and following general hygiene
measures (such as washing hands). Where a 1 m distance between employees can be
maintained, no mask is required. If possible, work procedures are planned to ensure
that the number of staff working simultaneously in one place is kept to a minimum.
Urban life after corona
Mayor Michael Ludwig, who is also the President of the Austrian Association of Cities and
Towns has stated at several occasions that it will be vital ensuring that cities benefit from aid
and investment programmes at both national and European level. Vienna as Austria’s
biggest economic powerhouse is securing and creating jobs. In order to keep it that way, the
city will need financial assistance and more room to manoeuvre, particularly as many
revenues such as municipal taxes are collapsing or even disappearing completely. Mayor
Ludwig therefore calls on the federal government to safeguard the cities and municipalities’
finances. He also addresses the planned EU recovery package with the clear demand that
this needs to be applied to cities and municipalities, as their investments directly benefit
small and medium-sized enterprises. Towns and municipalities are the most important public
investors in Austria.
For more information please contact:
Director Brussels Liaison Office
Department for European Affairs of the City of Vienna