Austria Makes Emergency Plan To Cut Russian Gas Dependency

Map of Austria

 

Austria on Wednesday presented an emergency plan to reduce its reliance on Russian gas over potential supply cuts from Moscow as tensions soar over the war in Ukraine.

Under the plan, the country aims to reduce the share of gas it consumes from Russia from 80 to 70 percent of the total.

“The measures will strongly reduce our dependence on Russian gas,” Energy and Climate Action Minister Leonore Gewessler told reporters.

For the first time, the government will build a strategic reserve with non-Russian gas accessible to all industries, which would cover total consumption for two months in the winter.

It will also bar storage facilities from remaining empty.

Storage facilities of Russian energy giant Gazprom in Haidach, near Salzburg, are empty.

Gewessler said it was “no longer acceptable” for Gazprom’s subsidiary, GSA, to not stock up.

Other suppliers will have access to the facilities “if Gazprom does nothing”, Gewessler added. “It is absolutely justified.”

The European Union is aiming to slash its reliance on Russian gas by two thirds this year, but it has been reluctant to ban it outright as countries such as Germany depend on Russian supplies and fear that it would damage their economies.

The Haidach reservoirs are linked to the German gas network, but it will now be attached to the Austrian network to ensure domestic clients get supplies, she said.

Austrian gas storage is at 26 percent capacity, and the goal is to reach 80 percent before the next heating season, the government said.

The measures must be adopted by a two-third majority of lawmakers in the coming days.

Man Utd Manager Ralf Rangnick Named Austria Coach

In this file photo, Manchester United German Interim head coach Ralf Rangnick leaves the field of play after the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Crystal Palace at Old Trafford in Manchester, northwest England, on December 5, 2021. Paul ELLIS / AF

 

Manchester United manager Ralf Rangnick has been appointed coach of Austria’s national team, the federation said Friday, but he will continue in a consultancy role at the club.

Rangnick joined United as interim manager in November last year and will move into an advisory position after Ajax coach Erik ten Hag comes in as the new permanent manager.

The 63-year-old German “will combine the job with his consultancy role at Old Trafford as planned,” United said in a statement.

The Austrian federation said Rangnick had been given a two-year deal that will be extended to four years if he secures qualification for the 2024 European championship.

“We are very pleased that in Ralf Rangnick we have been able to attract an outstanding expert in international football,” Austrian federation president Gerhard Milletich said.

United’s already slim hopes of finishing in the top four of the Premier League and securing a Champions League spot took another blow with a 1-1 draw against Chelsea on Thursday.

AFP

Austria Suspends Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccine Law

An Austrian police van is pictured in the Mariahilfer street in Vienna, Austria on march 15, 2020. (Photo by HERBERT P. OCZERET / APA / AFP)

 

Austria said Wednesday it is suspending mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations for all adults saying the pandemic no longer poses the same danger, just weeks after the law took effect in an EU first.

The Alpine nation of nine million people was among few countries in the world to make jabs against the coronavirus compulsory for all adults.

The law took effect in February and called for fines up to 3,600 euros ($3,940) from mid-March for those who do not comply.

But minister Karoline Edtstadler said the law’s “encroachment of fundamental rights” could no longer be justified by the danger posed by the pandemic.

“After consultations with the health minister, we have decided that we will of course follow what the (expert) commission has said,” Edtstadler told reporters after a Cabinet meeting.

“We see no need to actually implement this compulsory vaccination due to the (Omicron) variant that we are predominantly experiencing here.”

The highly-contagious variant is widely believed to be less severe than previous strains of the virus, and so far Austrian hospitals have been able to cope with a surge in cases.

This has led to the government to drop most coronavirus restrictions in recent weeks.

The government has stressed it needs to act flexibly in line with the epidemiological situation.

“Just like the virus keeps on changing, we need to be flexible and adaptable,” Edtstadler said.

The decision to suspend the law will be reviewed in three months, said Johannes Rauch, who took over as health minister this week as the third since the start of the pandemic.

– Mass protests –

Tens of thousands have demonstrated in regular weekend rallies across the country since the government said last November that it would seek to force people to get jabbed in an effort to boost the staggering vaccination rate.

But the rate of those considered fully protected against the virus has hardly changed in recent week, hovering around 70 percent of the population.

That group includes people who are vaccinated, those who have recovered, or a combination of both.

Calls to review the law — including from within the ruling conservative People’s Party — have also become increasingly loud as Austria has dropped many restrictions.

As of Tuesday, Austria has recorded almost three million coronavirus cases and more than 15,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020.

The law was adopted by parliament on January 20 with all but the far-right party supporting it and came into effect on February 5.

It applied to all residents above 18 years old with the exception of pregnant women, those who have contracted the virus within the past 180 days and those with medical exemptions.

Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Indonesia are among the few other countries in the world that also have a mandatory Covid-19 vaccination law for all.

Swiss And Austrians Drop Almost All COVID-19 Restrictions

File photo of people in Austria during a demonstration against the restrictions related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Vienna on January 31, 2021. PHOTO: ALEX HALADA / AFP

 

Alpine neighbours Switzerland and Austria on Wednesday became the latest European countries to drop almost all of their COVID-19 restrictions despite the virus still circulating strongly.

The Swiss government said the conditions were right for a “rapid normalisation” of national life.

From Thursday, the only remaining coronavirus requirements in Switzerland will be the obligation to self-isolate for five days after a positive test and to wear masks on public transport and in healthcare institutions.

However, those rules will expire at the end of March at the latest.

“The Federal Council took the decision to lift the majority of measures in place to contain the coronavirus pandemic,” the government said in a statement.

“Masks and COVID-19 certificates will no longer be required to enter shops, restaurants, cultural venues, and other public settings and events.

“The requirement to wear masks in the workplace and the recommendation to work from home will also end.”

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said the government would drop most measures from March 5.

Only mask-wearing in essential shops and public transport will remain compulsory, as well as entry restrictions at hospitals and other places with vulnerable groups, he added.

“The outlook shows us that together we can cautiously and prudently but with determination take back the freedom that the virus took,” Nehammer told reporters.

“From March 5, most of the restrictions that are burdening people will be lifted.”

Nehammer warned that the pandemic was not over yet, adding “coronavirus is still part of our lives” and that vaccination “remains important”.

Switzerland and Austria will thus join European countries including the UK, Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway in dropping most restrictions.

READ ALSO: China May Take Advantage Of Ukraine Crisis – US General

“Thanks to the high level of immunity among the population, it is unlikely that the healthcare system will be overburdened despite the continued high level of virus circulation,” the Swiss government said.

“This means that the conditions are in place for a rapid normalisation of social and economic life.”

To get into Switzerland, it will no longer be necessary to provide proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test, or complete an entry form.

Though Covid passes are being dropped domestically, Switzerland will still issue vaccination/recovery certificates that are recognised by the surrounding European Union.

Restrictions on large-scale public events and private gatherings are also being dropped from Thursday.

This month Austria became the first EU country to make coronavirus vaccination mandatory. The law, stipulating fines from mid-March for those who refuse to get jabbed, took effect on February 5.

Nehammer said the government is setting up a commission of health and judicial experts to evaluate the law before penalties are imposed given the new opening up of restrictions.

Switzerland has registered more than 2.6 million Covid-19 cases and over 12,500 deaths during the pandemic while Austria has recorded more than 2.3 million cases with more than 14,400 deaths.

The vaccination rates are almost identical with Switzerland at 70 percent and Austria at 69 percent.

AFP

Compulsory Vaccination Rules Come Into Force In Austria

Medical staff, with protective clothing, stands at an entrance where patients are filtered at Kaiser-Franz-Josef-Spital (KFJ) hospital in Vienna. PHOTO: GEORG HOCHMUTH /APA /AFP.

 

From Saturday, Austrians over the age of 18 must be vaccinated against COVID-19 or face the possibility of a heavy fine, an unprecedented measure in the European Union.

The new measure, adopted on January 20 by Parliament, was signed into law by President Alexander Van der Bellen on Friday, the culmination of a process that began in November in the face of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

The government decided to pursue its new tougher approach despite criticism within the country.

READ ALSO: Canada Protests Against COVID-19 Measures Set To Increase

“No other country in Europe is following us on compulsory vaccines,” said Manuel Krautgartner, who has campaigned against the new approach.

In neighbouring Germany, a similar law championed by the new Social Democrat Chancellor Olaf Scholz was debated last month in the Bundestag, or lower house of parliament, but has not made progress yet due to divisions within the political class.

 

– Checks from mid-March –

Despite the threat of such a drastic measure, the vaccination rate in Austria has still failed to take off, languishing below the levels seen in France or Spain.

Vienna vaccination centres remain relatively quiet.

“We are far from reaching maximum capacity, things are completely stagnating,” Stefanie Kurzweil, of the humanitarian association, Arbeiter Samariter Bund, which oversees one of these sites, told AFP a few days ago.

Melanie, a 23-year-old waitress who preferred not to give her second name at the centre to get her booster jab, said she was mainly there to avoid ending up “locked up at home”.

Non-vaccinated people are currently excluded from restaurants, sports and cultural venues.

But from now on they will also be subject to fines, which Melanie said was “unhealthy”.

The law applies to all adult residents with the exception of pregnant women, those who have contracted the virus within the past 180 days and those with medical exemptions.

Checks will begin from mid-March, with sanctions ranging from 600 to 3,600 euros ($690-$4,100).

They will, however, be lifted if the person fined gets vaccinated within two weeks.

 

– Protect against new variants –

Waiting in the queue, others say they are in favour of vaccination for all.

“We would have finished a long time ago (with the pandemic) if everyone had been vaccinated”, said legal worker, Angelika Altmann.

More than 60 per cent of Austrians support the measure, according to a recent survey, but large swathes of the population remain strongly opposed.

For several weeks after the announcement of the new law, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest against what they regard as a radical and draconian policy.

Critics have also questioned the need for compulsion given the far milder nature of the Omicron variant.

Conservative Chancellor Karl Nehammer, who leads the Alpine country with the environmentalist Greens, also announced at the same time a relaxation of earlier Covid-19 restrictions.

But for Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein, compulsory vaccination is aimed at both protecting the country against new waves and fighting new variants.

Vaccination passes are now a reality in an increasing number of countries for certain professions or activities.

In Ecuador, it is compulsory, including for children over the age of five, a world first.

Before that, two authoritarian states in Central Asia — Tajikistan and Turkmenistan — mandated vaccination, as did Indonesia, even if less than half the population is actually vaccinated.

AFP

Austria Sees Third Weekend Of COVID-19 Protests

Police clashes with protesters during a demonstration against measures taken to curb the Covid-19 corona pandemic in Vienna, on December 4, 2021. FLORIAN WIESER / APA / AFP
Police clashes with protesters during a demonstration against measures taken to curb the Covid-19 corona pandemic in Vienna, on December 4, 2021. FLORIAN WIESER / APA / AFP

 

Tens of thousands of Austrians turned out Saturday for the third straight weekend of protests against the government’s coronavirus measures, police said.

After several different demonstrations took place in the capital Vienna, police said their estimate of overall turnout was “over 40,000”.

Police said that some demonstrators had thrown “pyrotechnic objects” at officers, who used pepper spray in response.

READ ALSO: Nigeria Reviews International Travel Protocol Amid Omicron Variant Scare

Several arrests were made for civil disorder offences.

Police added that around 1,500 people had taken part in a counter-demonstration.

Austria is in a partial lockdown which started on November 22 and is scheduled to end on December 11.

It was the first country in the EU to say it would make vaccination against the coronavirus mandatory, a measure expected to come into effect from February.

The government has justified the measures by pointing to a fourth wave of the virus and the country’s vaccination rate — at 67 percent one of the lowest in Western Europe. The country’s intensive care units are coming under increasing pressure.

Since the lockdown came into effect, infection numbers in the country of 8.9 million have fallen from highs of 13,000 a day to under 10,000.

However, the restrictions have prompted a backlash from many Austrians.

Local media reported protestors had travelled to the Vienna protests from across the country Saturday, and families with children were among those taking part.

The opposition to lockdowns and compulsory vaccination has been encouraged by the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), whose leader Herbert Kickl has promoted unproven treatments against the virus and accused the conservative-green coalition government of acting like a “dictatorship”.

 

AFP

Court Slams $3,060 Fine On Surgeon For Amputating Wrong Leg

A file photo used to illustrate the story.

 

An Austrian court has fined a surgeon for amputating the wrong leg of an elderly patient, a spokesperson for the tribunal in the northern city of Linz said Wednesday.

While the 43-year-old defendant said her actions were due to “human error”, the judge found her guilty of gross negligence and fined her 2,700 euros ($3,060), with half the amount suspended, the spokesperson said.

The surgeon had marked the wrong leg of the 82-year-old patient for amputation ahead of the operation in May in the central town of Freistadt, only noticing the mistake two days after carrying out the surgery.

READ ALSO: US School Shooting: Fourth Student Dies As Suspect Surrenders To Police

The court awarded 5,000 euros in damages plus interest to the widow of the patient, who died before the case came to court.

The surgeon said there had been a flaw in the chain of control in the operating theatre. She has since moved to another clinic and can appeal the judgement.

The management of the institution involved said in a statement that “the causes and circumstances of this medical error have been analysed in detail”, internal procedures discussed with the team, and training provided.

AFP

Austrian Chancellor Steps Down Amid Corruption Scandal

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz arrives to give a press statement on the government crisis at the Federal Chancellery in Vienna, Austria, on October 9, 2021. GEORG HOCHMUTH / APA / AFP
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz arrives to give a press statement on the government crisis at the Federal Chancellery in Vienna, Austria, on October 9, 2021. GEORG HOCHMUTH / APA / AFP

 

Austria’s Sebastian Kurz on Saturday announced he was stepping down as chancellor following pressure on him to resign after he was implicated in a corruption scandal.

In a televised media statement, Kurz said he wanted to “make space to prevent chaos”.

“We need stability,” the 35-year-old conservative said, adding it would be “irresponsible” to allow Austria to “slide into months of chaos or gridlock” while the EU member fights the pandemic.

READ ALSO: US To Sell 12 Attack Helicopters To Australia

Kurz said he would nominate Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg as new chancellor, while he would stay on as the leader of his People’s Party (OeVP) and a lawmaker in parliament.

Vice Chancellor and Greens leader Werner Kogler on Friday had asked the OeVP to name another chancellor, saying Kurz was “no longer fit for office”.

On Wednesday prosecutors raided several locations linked to the OeVP and announced that Kurz and nine other individuals were under investigation over claims that government money was used in a corrupt deal to ensure positive media coverage.

‘Human with emotions and mistakes’

Kurz has denied any wrongdoing, reiterating on Saturday that allegations against him were “false.”

“I will be able to clarify it; I’m sure about that,” he said calmly.

He said some of the text messages he wrote that got him into hot water were composed in “the heat of the moment”.

“I’m just human with emotions and mistakes,” he said.

By stepping down, Kurz avoids having to face a parliamentary no-confidence motion, which he was expected to lose after his junior coalition partner, the Greens, turned against him.

In 2019, his coalition with the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) already collapsed after his ally became engulfed in a corruption scandal, but fresh elections once again saw Kurz’s OeVP come out on top.

In the latest scandal, according to prosecutors, the core allegation is that between 2016 and 2018, finance ministry resources were used to finance “partially manipulated opinion polls that served an exclusively party political interest”.

This correlates to the time period in which Kurz, already a government minister, took over the leadership of the OeVP and later that of the Alpine EU member at the helm of a coalition with the FPOe.

Prosecutors allege that payments were made to an unnamed media company — widely understood to be the Oesterreich tabloid — in return for publishing these surveys.

The OeVP-Green coalition — a first at a national level — entered office in January 2020 and has already been put under strain several times by the fallout from other corruption scandals and differences over questions such as refugee policy.

Thousands demonstrated in front of the OeVP headquarters in central Vienna late on Thursday, calling for Kurz’s resignation while waving signs that read “Against corruption” and “Shame on you”.

 

AFP

Italy Beat Austria After Extra-Time To Reach Euro 2020 Quarter-Finals

Italy's midfielder Federico Chiesa (R) shoots to score the team's first goal during extra time in the UEFA EURO 2020 round of 16 football match between Italy and Austria at Wembley Stadium in London on June 26, 2021. Laurence Griffiths / POOL / AFP
Italy’s midfielder Federico Chiesa (R) shoots to score the team’s first goal during extra time in the UEFA EURO 2020 round of 16 football match between Italy and Austria at Wembley Stadium in London on June 26, 2021. Laurence Griffiths / POOL / AFP

 

Italy overcame stubborn Austria 2-1 in extra-time at Wembley on Saturday to reach the Euro 2020 quarter-finals as Denmark breezed through by hammering Wales 4-0.

Roberto Mancini’s side, who earned rave reviews after their cruise through the group phase, were made to work hard for their win and had super subs Federico Chiesa and Matteo Pessina to thank.

The victory means Italy have now set a new record of 31 matches unbeaten, surpassing the mark set under two-time World Cup-winning coach Vittorio Pozzo in the 1930s.

Italy’s fans gave a rousing rendition of their national anthem and were the more enterprising team in the first half but Austria came back strongly after the break and cursed a VAR decision to rule out a goal for Marko Arnautovic 20 minutes into the second half.

Despite multiple attempts on goal from both sides, they were locked at 0-0 after 90 minutes in London.

But Chiesa made the crucial breakthrough five minutes into extra-time and another goal from Pessina gave Italy a two-goal cushion.

There was still time for late drama when Austria’s Sasa Kalajdzic pulled a goal back but Italy progress and will play the winners of Sunday’s tie between Belgium and holders Portugal.

Mancini, who has rebuilt the Azzurri after their humiliating failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, said his side “deserved” the result.

“In the first half we could have scored a couple of goals and then after the break we dropped off physically,” he told Italy’s public broadcaster RAI.

“We won thanks to the players who came on with the right mindset and resolved the situation. I knew it would be hard, maybe even more so than in the quarter-finals.”

Emotional win for Denmark

Earlier, Denmark eased into the quarter-finals with a 4-0 win over Wales in Amsterdam’s Johan Cruyff Arena thanks to two goals from Kasper Dolberg’s and late goals from Joakim Maehle and Martin Braithwaite.

The Danes, carried by a wave of emotion, are the neutrals’ favourites after overcoming the trauma of Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest in their opening game.

Denmark's players celebrate after winning the UEFA EURO 2020 round of 16 football match between Wales and Denmark at the Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam on June 26, 2021. Piroschka van de Wouw / POOL / AFP
Denmark’s players celebrate after winning the UEFA EURO 2020 round of 16 football match between Wales and Denmark at the Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam on June 26, 2021.
Piroschka van de Wouw / POOL / AFP

 

They will face the Netherlands or Czech Republic in the quarter-finals after winning a knockout tie at the European Championship for the first time since they stunned the continent by winning the tournament in 1992.

It is exactly 29 years since Denmark defeated Germany in the final in Gothenburg having famously only qualified because war-torn Yugoslavia disintegrated.

“It is hard to believe that this is reality,” said coach Kasper Hjulmand. “Johan Cruyff is one of my great inspirations and this was also Christian’s first home after leaving Denmark.

“I am really grateful for all the support we got, and the guys are true warriors. Being in the quarter-finals now is amazing.”

Wales, surprise semi-finalists at Euro 2016, found the majority of the stadium filled by Danish supporters, with fans barred from entering the Netherlands from Britain due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Robert Page’s side made a promising start as Gareth Bale drilled just wide from distance, but Dolberg curled Denmark ahead with a sumptuous strike shortly before the half hour.

The Nice forward, brought into the team as a replacement for Yussuf Poulsen, then pounced on a poor clearance by Neco Williams to fire home a second just after half-time.

Maehle added a third goal for Denmark two minutes from time before Harry Wilson was sent off for a lazy challenge on the Atalanta player.

Braithwaite rubbed further salt into Welsh wounds with a fourth goal in stoppage time as Denmark became the first team in European Championship history to score four in successive matches.

“We tried to play in the second half but made a mistake to concede which killed the momentum on our side,” said Wales and Real Madrid forward Bale.

“To finish how we did is disappointing… the boys are frustrated and angry, but I’d rather we go out like that, kicking and screaming, than laying off and doing nothing.”

 

AFP

Austria To Phase Out AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine

File Photo: Ina FASSBENDER / AFP

 

Austria will phase out AstraZeneca from its Covid-19 immunisation programme because of delivery problems and wariness among the population following reports of the vaccine’s rare side effects, the health minister said.

Austria becomes the third European country to drop AstraZeneca, after Norway and Denmark ditched the vaccine over rare cases of severe blood clots in people receiving the jab.

“We will probably continue to do first shots with AstraZeneca until early June, and then that’s it… AstraZeneca will be discontinued,” Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein told private TV channel Puls 24 late Monday.

Mueckstein said those who received a first shot of AstraZeneca would still get a second shot of the vaccine, but officials would determine which other vaccine to use for any refresher jabs later.

Mueckstein, a doctor himself, insisted AstraZeneca was “safe” but said Austria had taken the decision to discontinue it because of “bad compliance among the population”, “bad press” and “delivery problems”.

The European Commission is suing the British-Swedish pharmaceutical group over its failure to deliver millions of doses of its vaccine.

A third of Austria’s nine million people has received at least one Covid-19 shot.

The European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organization both recommend continued use of the vaccine, arguing that the benefits far outweigh the associated risks.

AFP

Funny Old World: The Week’s Offbeat News

Taiwan’s government says the sudden name changes are fishy. (Photo: AFP)

 

 

Our weekly roundup of offbeat stories from around the world:

Only codding

Taiwan has been forced to ask people to stop changing their name to “salmon” after scores of young people did just that to take up a giveaway at a chain of sushi restaurants.

Any customer whose ID card contained “Gui Yu” — the Chinese characters for salmon — could get all the sushi they and five friends could eat.

But what has been dubbed “Salmon Chaos” drove officials to distraction, with a minister forced to appeal to people to be “more rational”.

“I just changed my name this morning,” said a student called Ma who changed his name to “Explosive Good Looking Salmon”.

He had already eaten $235 worth of free sushi, he boasted.

A woman called Tung said she and two friends also changed their names.

“We’ll just change our names back afterwards,” she said.

Other fishy names reported in local media include “Salmon Prince”, “Meteor Salmon King” and “Salmon Fried Rice”

And one far-sighted man has added 36 new characters to his name, most of them seafood-related, including crab, abalone, and lobster, in anticipation of the next free offer.

Sadly no one has yet had the foresight to call themselves Teri Yaki.

Choo moo!

To India, a video of a passenger train rolling backward for 35 kilometres (20 miles) went viral after the driver slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting a cow.

Cows are sacred to Hindus but passengers were not amused when the New Delhi to Tanakpur service began to roll backwards out of control back to the capital after the sudden stop.

North Eastern Railway did not explain how the train was halted but said it “stopped just short of Khatima yard safely”.

There was no word on how the cow is doing.

Austria’s mask beef

In another crushing victory for bovines, judges decreed that Austrians can now wear cow masks and not be arrested for breaching the country’s ban on face coverings.

Its constitutional court said police were wrong to fine an animal rights activist for wearing a cow mask at a protest against intensive dairy farming.

The controversial 2017 ban aimed at the Islamic face veil has been further called into question since the coronavirus pandemic made mask-wearing mandatory in shops, public transport, and crowded public places.

 

In this photo taken on December 2, 2020 a face mask hangs with a table tennis bat cover at a park in Beijing. GREG BAKER / AFP
In this photo taken on December 2, 2020 a face mask hangs with a table tennis bat cover at a park in Beijing. GREG BAKER / AFP

 

Aussies employ jellyfish terror

Australia added another chapter to its long love story with insects and animals that can kill you when its Olympic surfing team named themselves  “The Irukandjis” after a deadly and difficult to pronounce jellyfish.

With other national sports teams already called the Wallabies, Crocs, Sharks, Emus, Koalas, Kookaburras, Dingos, Wombats, Firetails, Joeys, Kangaroos and Jillaroos, there wasn’t much wildlife left for the surfers, who will be making their debut at the Tokyo Games.

The irukandji — pronounced ira-khan-ji — is a tiny and highly venomous box jellyfish with an incredibly painful sting.

So painful in fact that researchers believe it one of the world’s most poisonous creatures — all the more to swell Aussie hearts with pride.

“The Irukandji is ferocious in the water and that is how our Australian surfers approach competition,” said seven-time world surfing champion, the wonderfully-named Layne Beachley.

The team got permission from the Yirrganydji people of northern-eastern Australia to use the name, and their kit is being designed by an indigenous artist.

The surfers will be joined in Japan by Australia’s  football team, the Socceroos, and their under-23 Olympic outfit, the Olyroos.

Given the difficulty of chanting “Come on you Irukandjis!” — and the Australian genius for shortening names — some suspect the surfers may end up being called “the Jellies” or even “the Jeez”.

Austria Suspends AstraZeneca Batch After Death

(Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

Austria will stop using doses from one batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine while the death of a nurse who received it is investigated, health officials have said.

The decision had been taken as a precaution, the National Office for Health System Safety (BASG) said late on Sunday, adding that there was “no evidence of a causal link” between the jab and the woman’s death.

The 49-year-old nurse died two days after having the jab from “severe blood coagulation problems” and another woman who received a jab from the same batch developed a pulmonary embolism, but is now recovering.

Both women received the vaccination at a hospital in the town of Zwettl, west of the capital Vienna.

An autopsy is being carried out at Vienna’s AKH hospital on the woman who died, with the results expected in the coming weeks.

“Based on the known clinical data, a causal relationship cannot be established, as thrombotic events are not one of the typical side effects of the vaccination,” the BASG statement said.

“The necessary investigation is currently underway… to definitively rule out any possible link.”

Regional prosecutors confirmed to AFP that no judicial steps would be taken against the hospital as no anomalies in the delivery, storage or administration of the vaccine had been reported.

Since inoculation campaigns began in earnest, isolated cases have been reported in some countries of people dying shortly after receiving a vaccine.

-AFP