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.”



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.


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.


Israel, Denmark, Austria Agree Deal For Vaccine Development

A file photo of COVID-19 vaccine doses at a manufacturing plant.


Leaders from Israel, Austria and Denmark announced Thursday in Jerusalem an alliance for the development and production of future generation coronavirus vaccines, a deal that has already sparked criticism in Europe.

The three countries will launch “a research and development fund” and begin “joint efforts for common production of future vaccines”, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a news conference alongside his Danish counterpart Mette Frederiksen and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.

“We don’t know how long… (current coronavirus) vaccines will hold up,” Netanyahu added.

“Is it half a year, is it a year, is it two years, is it more, is it less? We don’t know. Therefore we have to protect our people against the reemergence of this pandemic, or mutations.”

He did not specify the fund amount or the production capacity goal.

Frederiksen said the three countries “all have promising research that could pave the way for a next generation platform”, adding they “would like also to explore possible cooperation on clinical trials”.

READ ALSO: How Vaccines Became Ammunition In Global Diplomacy

Denmark and Austria are European Union members, and the Israeli partnership has elicited criticism from fellow EU state France, which said the European framework remained the best way to guarantee “solidarity” within the bloc.

Kurz had announced the alliance on Monday, saying the European Medicines Agency (EMA) was “too slow in approving vaccines”, leaving the bloc vulnerable to supply bottlenecks at pharmaceutical companies.

But France defended the agency and insisted that “the most effective solution for meeting our vaccination needs must remain within a European framework”.

“This is what guarantees the solidarity among member states that is more essential than ever,” it said late Wednesday.

But Kurz on Thursday said: “We need to cooperate on this issue within the European Union… but we also need to cooperate worldwide.”

He added that “Israel is the first country in the world to show that it is possible to defeat the virus”.

– ‘No contradiction’ –

Israel, among the world leaders in Covid-19 vaccinations per capita, launched a massive inoculation drive in December, backed by a deal with US pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer, which mounted an airlift of its vaccine developed with German firm BioNTech in exchange for data on its effects.

The Jewish state has so far administered at least one of two recommended doses to more than half its nine million-strong population, and led a series of large-scale trials that have so far confirmed the efficacy of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

The rapid rollout has allowed for shops to re-open and activities in public spaces to resume, some of which, such as sports centres, are reserved for people with a “green badge” indicating they’ve had two doses.

Netanyahu, who took his Danish and Austrian guests on a tour of a gym on Thursday, and has opened the door for other countries to also join the alliance.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has acknowledged “significant” shortcomings in the EU’s vaccination policies, while criticising what he called “attempts at secession”.

Austria’s neighbours the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia have already bypassed the EMA to approve Russian and Chinese coronavirus vaccines.

The EU has seen a sharp shortfall in the first three months of this year of deliveries it had been counting on to kickstart its vaccine roll-out, with Anglo-Swedish company AstraZeneca facing fierce criticism from the European Commission for supplying just a fraction of the vaccine doses it had promised to deliver to the bloc.

The European Commission, however, refrained from censuring the Israel-Austria-Denmark alliance.

“We welcome the fact that member states are looking at all possible options to improve the common European response to the to the virus,” said commission spokesman Eric Mamer.

“For us, there is no contradiction,” he added.


Austria Bets On Millions Of Tests To Contain COVID-19

(FILES) In this file photo taken on December 4, 2020 People get coronavirus tests at the Stadthalle city hall in Vienna, Austria, where a test centre has been installed as mass coronavirus testing started in the states of Vorarlberg and Tyrol as well as the capital Vienna. (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)


While Austria has struggled to contain the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, it is fast emerging as a world leader in testing as a way to reopen schools and businesses.

The small nation with a population of just under nine million tested three million people last week alone, with the mass-testing strategy forming a key plank for getting pupils back into the classroom.

Half of those three million tests were administered in schools, where twice-weekly tests have been mandatory since in-person lessons restarted earlier this month.

Only a tiny percentage of parents have refused to have their children tested under the scheme — and those children are not allowed to return to school.

The other 1.5 million tests were carried out at more than 500 dedicated centres, around 900 pharmacies and roughly 1,000 companies.

“Our strategy is to have a high frequency of tests and to make them very easily accessible — it’s the only way to keep the pandemic in check,” Katharina Reich, the health ministry’s chief medical officer, told AFP.

A negative test result, no older than 48 hours, is now required at a range of locations — from hair salons to elderly care homes, or ski resorts.

The seven-day average of daily tests is 24 per 1,000 in Austria, compared to 7.7 in Britain and just 1.77 in neighbouring Germany, according to the Our World In Data website.

“But we want that to be higher — much higher,” Reich said, explaining that the goal is “for 60 to 70 percent of the population to get tested at least twice a week, or even three times a week if they want to see risk groups, like the elderly.”

She says tests are a key weapon in the fight against the pandemic until the vaccine rollout has been completed.

From March 1, every person will be allocated up to five “living-room” antigen tests, so called because they only require a shallow swab of the nasal cavity and so can be done at home.

– ‘Return to normality’ –

Yveta Unzeitig, who has already been tested several times because the publishing house she works at participates in the testing drive, said she thought expanding tests was a good idea.

“It sounds smart, but they should do it for everything — with a negative test, I’d also like to be able to go to a restaurant, or for a coffee with friends,” she said, referring to the still closed hospitality industry.

“It sounds like it’d make all of us safer, and like we’d then able to return to normality,” said her daughter Yvonne, who works at an insurance company.

Professor Monika Redlberger-Fritz, head of department at Medical University Vienna’s centre for virology, says that turning up as many cases as possible through testing is “very, very important”.

However, she cautions that a negative antigen result from a nose or throat swab only shows that the person is not highly contagious — not that he or she is not contagious at all.

“Just because you take the test, that doesn’t mean that you can go straight to your grandma and hug her and kiss her,” she said.

FFP2 masks and an interpersonal distance of two metres (six feet) continue to be mandatory in places like stores and public buildings.

Like elsewhere, Austria is also contending with the spread of virus mutations, including the more infectious South African variant.

– Pandemic fatigue –
How successful the millions of tests have been will be evaluated over the coming weeks, especially by looking at changes in intensive care unit capacities, said Redlberger-Fritz.

Increasing testing is partly a response to growing resistance to lockdowns — hundreds now protest against the government’s pandemic measures every weekend — and a widespread “pandemic fatigue”.

The first mass testing drives began late last year, but the initiative seemed to falter as relatively few people turned up to the designated centres: “Mass tests without masses,” ran the headlines.

However, making tests mandatory for some sectors and investing more in public awareness campaigns seems to have had the desired effect.

At one pharmacy in Vienna, 21-year-old Sascha said he, like many Austrians in recent weeks, had got a test “to be able to get a haircut”.

But he said he finds the requirement “arduous” and says he will only get tested — or vaccinated — if he absolutely has to.

Austrians Defy Ban To Protest COVID-19 Restrictions

People take part in a demonstration against the ongoing restrictions related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Vienna on January 31, 2021. – The forbidden rally is under the motto Christian walk. (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)


Around 5,000 people defied a ban to march Sunday in Vienna in protest against a curfew and lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19.

The march was organised by the far-right FPOe party, and many participants ignored government regulations on mask wearing and the respect for minimum distances from each other.

Neo-nazi militants and thugs were reportedly among the crowd, which refused to disband and blocked traffic as it began to march towards the national parliament.

Police then intervened and detained some protestors.

It was the first time that the FPOe, and member Herbert Kickl who is a former interior minister, officially called for a protest against the third Austrian lockdown.

READ ALSO: Israel To Send 5,000 Vaccine Doses To Palestinians

“We are seeing unprecedented censure,” Kickl told media Saturday, before the party put in a second request for a rally permit which was also refused.

The reason for the refusal was given as a risk of increased tranmisssion rates of new variants, and a “lack of contact traceability” among those who were to take part in the march.

Austrian schools, sports clubs, hotels, restaurants, cultural venues and many stores have been shut to stem the spread of Covid-19, but the country’s iconic ski resorts have been allowed to remain open.

Thousands Of Anti-Maskers Stage Protest In Austria

Demonstrators march without masks during a protest against the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) restrictions at the Ringstrasse in Vienna, Austria on January 16, 2021. ALEX HALADA / AFP
Demonstrators march without masks during a protest against the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) restrictions at the Ringstrasse in Vienna, Austria on January 16, 2021. ALEX HALADA / AFP


Around 10,000 people rallied in the Austrian capital of Vienna on Saturday to protest coronavirus restrictions, calling on the government to resign, Austrian police said. 

With the Alpine country currently in its third lockdown since March in a bid to bring the pandemic under control, and with non-essential shops, concert halls and theatres, sports centres and schools all closed, the protesters’ anger was directed at Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, as well as at the media.

“The numbers of deaths we’re being given, that’s rubbish. I don’t want to end up like China where you don’t have any right to do anything,” one woman who gave her first name as Gabi told AFP.

READ ALSO: Global Death Toll From COVID-19 Crosses Two Million

Brandishing banners proclaiming: “You’re the disease. We’re the cure” and waving Austrian flags, most of the demonstrators refused to wear masks or respect social distancing rules, including far-right politician and former deputy chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache.

A counter-demonstration organised by the far-left comprising a crowd of around 500, according to police estimates, also took place, denouncing “anti-mask lunacy”.

Austria, which has a population of 8.9 million, has reported a total 7,053 deaths from Covid-19 since the outbreak of the pandemic.

A panel of experts has recommended to Chancellor Kurz that the current restrictions should not be eased as planned on January 25, as the number of infections is showing no sign of slowing and the British variant of the virus continues to circulate.

The scientific advisers suggested making it mandatory to work from home and to extend the lockdown.

The government is scheduled to announce new measures on Sunday.



Austria Scraps Plan To Ease Lockdown After Testing Row



Austria’s government on Monday effectively extended its third coronavirus lockdown, scrapping a proposal that would have allowed citizens to access some services if they took part in a mass-testing programme.

The country’s current lockdown is scheduled to run until January 24.

However, the government had proposed that those who tested negative in a nationwide, free Covid-19 mass-testing programme be allowed to visit shops, event venues, restaurants, cafes and bars from January 18.

But the plan would have obliged those who did not participate to stay at home for a week longer.

Opposition parties harshly criticised the scheme, questioning the point of one-off tests and asking how the restrictions could be enforced.

After a high volume of complaints overwhelmed the parliament website, all three opposition parties on Sunday announced that they would block the necessary legislation in the upper chamber.

READ ALSO: EU Defends Its Slow COVID-19 Vaccine Roll-Out

“That means that exiting lockdown early through getting a test won’t be possible,” Health Minister Rudolf Anschober said on Monday morning.

Shops, restaurants and other services will therefore remain closed until January 24.

As long as the number of new infections per day doesn’t come below 1,000, “there’s no point discussing relaxation measures”, Pamela Rendi-Wagner, head of the largest opposition Social Democrat (SPOe) party, said Sunday.

Currently, around 1,500 residents of the small, Alpine nation are testing positive per day.

The current, third lockdown came into effect on December 26, just twenty days after the previous lockdown ended.

Austria was generally seen to have acted swiftly during the first wave of the pandemic, escaping its worst effects, but critics have accused the government of failing to adequately prepare for the second wave.

The country’s per capita infection rates climbed to among the highest in the world in late November, outbreaks in elderly care facilities emerging as a particular problem in recent weeks.

Gunman At Large After Vienna Shooting Rampage Leaves Four Dead

Policemen patrol on November 3, 2020 close to a crime scene in Vienna after a shooting. A huge manhunt was under way Tuesday, November 3, 2020 after gunmen opened fire on November 2, 2020 at multiple locations across central Vienna, killing at least four people in what Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz described as a “repulsive terror attack”.


A huge manhunt was underway Tuesday after gunmen opened fire at multiple locations across central Vienna, killing at least four people in what Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz described as a “repulsive terror attack”.

One of the suspected killers, identified as an Islamic State group sympathiser, was shot dead by police who said they were searching for at least one more assailant still at large.

The shooting rampage, in six locations including near a synagogue and the world-famous opera house in the heart of Vienna on Monday evening, was carried out by “several suspects armed with rifles”, police said.

Helicopters were flying overhead as police sealed off the city in the hunt for other attackers, while neighbouring countries stepped up border checks.

The shooting erupted just hours before Austria was to re-impose a coronavirus lockdown, with people out in bars and restaurants enjoying a final night out.

It follows a spate of Islamist attacks in France and triggered an outpouring of solidarity from Western leaders including US President Donald Trump.

– ‘Heavily armed’ gunman –

Two men and two women were killed in the attack, an interior ministry spokesman said, while about 15 more have been injured, seven seriously. Police also said an officer had been hurt.

The first shots were heard at around 8 pm (1900 GMT) in the city’s centrally-located first district.

“It sounded like firecrackers, then we realised it was shots,” said one witness quoted by public broadcaster ORF.

A gunman “shot wildly with an automatic weapon” before police arrived and opened fire, the witness added.

Another spoke of at least 50 shots being fired.

“All the signs make it clear it’s a radicalised person and a person who feels closely connected to IS,” Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said of the slain attacker.

Police had used explosives to blast their way into the apartment of the dead man who had been “heavily armed”, he told a press conference.

The minister had earlier said: “According to what we currently know, there is at least one attacker who is still on the run.”

It was unclear how many assailants were involved.

– ‘Never be intimidated’ –

Speaking to ORF, Kurz said the attackers “were very well equipped with automatic weapons” and had “prepared professionally”.

He also tweeted: “Our police will act decisively against the perpetrators of this repulsive terror attack.

“We will never be intimidated by terrorism and we will fight this attack with all means.”

Kurz said that while police were concentrating on the anti-terror operation, the army would take over the security of major buildings in Vienna.

Nehammer urged Vienna residents to remain in their homes and keep away from all public places or public transport. He said children would not be expected to go to school on Tuesday.

An AFP photographer said large numbers of police were guarding an area near the opera house.

The president of Vienna’s Jewish community Oskar Deutsch said shots had been fired “in the immediate vicinity” of the Stadttempel synagogue, but added that it was currently unknown whether the temple — closed at the time — had been the target.

– ‘Cowardly act’ –

At the busy bars and restaurants, people were told to remain indoors.

“At the beginning, I thought to myself that maybe we were making an American film or that they had drunk too much,” said waiter Jimmy Eroglu, 42.

But then he heard shots. “The police came in and said, ‘you all have to stay inside because there’s a probably a dead man there'”.

Robert Schneider, who lives in central Vienna, went out and found two lasers trained on his chest.

“Hands up, take off your jacket,” officers shouted at him, the 39-year-old told AFP. “We had seen nothing, heard nothing. We are in shock.”

Austria had until now been spared the sort of major attacks that have hit other European countries.

Germany stepped up checks at the Austrian border as Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “The fight against these assassins and those who instigate them is our common struggle.”

President Emmanuel Macron of France tweeted: “We French share the shock and sorrow of the Austrian people”.

On Thursday, three people were killed at a church in the French Riviera city of Nice, and a schoolteacher was beheaded by a suspected Islamist outside Paris on October 16.

Leaders of other nations also voiced support for Austria.

“These evil attacks against innocent people must stop. The US stands with Austria, France, and all of Europe in the fight against terrorists, including radical Islamic terrorists,” Trump said.

EU Council chief Charles Michel tweeted that the bloc “strongly condemns this cowardly act”.


With Morbid Humour, Viennese Look Death In The Eye

A visitor looks on at death masks of Ludwig Van Beethoven (2nd L), Joseph Hayden (C), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (2nd R) and Franz Schubert at the Funeral Museum in Vienna, Austria on October 20, 2020. Even in midst of a deadly pandemic, the Viennese seek to look death straight in the eye — an attitude on display at a morbidly humourous museum devoted to death and burial.


Even in midst of a deadly pandemic, the Viennese seek to look death straight in the eye — an attitude on display at a morbidly humorous museum devoted to death and burial.

Right below the funeral parlour of the Austrian capital’s famous Central Cemetery, burial shrouds and coffins have been on display since 1967, making the Vienna Funeral Museum the first museum to trace how we mourn the dead.

It is perhaps fitting, given the local expression: “Death must be a Viennese”.

“A lot of people are probably afraid of death, but it’s inevitable -– along with taxes! –- so it’s a good idea to show that things haven’t changed that much,” says visitor Jack Curtin, a Vienna resident of American origin in his 70s.

After a day spent touring the graves of the great and the good, he has taken in the museum collection together with a friend, pronouncing it “excellent”.

In normal times tourists from as far afield as Japan and Canada would come to marvel at the re-usable coffins — introduced in the 18th century by Austrian Emperor Joseph II — as well as the futuristic-looking “cocoon” coffin.

But thanks to the blow dealt to travel by the pandemic, the Viennese will largely have the site to themselves on Halloween and All Saints Day.

– Morbid side –

Despite the pandemic, however, the museum’s new temporary exhibit commemorating the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven is drawing visitors.

Alongside insights into the life of the German composer, who was laid to rest in the Central Cemetery, the exhibition also naturally includes his death mask and objects relating to his funeral.

Fellow composer Joseph Haydn was also buried here — although his skull, stolen by medical students in 1809, was only recovered nearly 150 years later.

“Vienna is well known for its morbid side,” says visitor Julia Wuerzl, who has come for a stroll through the leaf-strewn grounds that serve as the last resting place for three million people, outnumbering the city’s living residents by more than one million.

As the coronavirus pandemic has taken hold, the museum says that it felt encouraged rather than dissuaded to keep its doors open, hoping to help locals consider death as a part of life.

“I believe that because of coronavirus, people spend more time contemplating what kind of significance death could have for their life,” as well as how they would like to be buried, says museum spokeswoman Sarah Hierhacker.


A death masks of famous musical composers (Ludwig Van Beethoven (2nd L), Joseph Hayden (C), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (2nd R) and Franz Schubert are on display at the Funeral Museum in Vienna, Austria on October 20, 2020. Even in midst of a deadly pandemic, the Viennese seek to look death straight in the eye — an attitude on display at a morbidly humourous museum devoted to death and burial.


– Lego deathmatch –

Recent trends include the use of compostable urns as well as of a new area dedicated to joint burials of people and their pets that allows for “strong bonds to be safeguarded beyond death,” according to a brochure.

The one thing that’s frowned upon, however, is dodging the subject, even when it comes to children: The museum’s gift shop offers Lego sets of crematoriums, hearses, and skeletons.

“While it is certainly necessary to choose words that are suitable for them, it’s still crucial to be clear and transparent with children of all ages, because taboos create fear and a sense of being abandoned”, says psychotherapist Michaela Tomek, who specialises in treating children who have experienced trauma, such as the death of a parent.

The Gothic Lego figurines, some of which are reminiscent of the Addams Family characters, have long been among the gift shop’s best selling items, but the latest hit has been funeral service-branded face masks.

“Denying the coronavirus secures our jobs,” reads a typical piece of black humour printed on one of the masks.

“We produced 3,000, but we’ve had 7,000 orders,” says Hierhacker, looking on as a disappointed visitor leaves empty-handed.

As elsewhere, the pandemic is on everyone’s mind, leading a visitor to indulge in some gallows humour and ask if Vienna will put its once infamous “hearse tram” back into service.

At the height of the 1918-1920 Spanish flu, the tram transported thousands of bodies straight to the central cemetery.

A century later, the public transport line 71 still follows the same route, giving rise to the Viennese euphemism for death: “to take the 71”.


Mother Arrested In Austria For Killing Three Daughters

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A mother confessed Saturday to killing her three young daughters in an apartment in Vienna, Austrian police said, without giving a motive.

The 31-year-old called the emergency services in the early hours saying she wanted to kill herself, and when police turned up they found the bodies of an eight-month-old baby and a three-year-old girl.

The woman’s nine-year-old daughter was taken to hospital but was unable to be saved, police said, adding that the mother had some light injuries herself.

According to local media reports, the three girls were suffocated.