Austria orders nationwide lockdown for unvaccinated

The move prohibits non-vaccinated individuals from leaving their homes except for basic activities such as work, grocery shopping, or getting vaccinated.

The Austrian government has ordered a nationwide lockdown for people who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19, with the aim of slowing the rapid spread of the disease in the country.

The move, taking effect from midnight on Sunday, bars unaffiliated individuals over the age of 12 from leaving home except for basic activities such as work, grocery shopping, going for a walk or getting vaccinated.

Officials are concerned about rising deaths and hospital staff will no longer be able to handle the growing influx of COVID-19 patients.

“As Austria’s government, it is our job to protect the people,” Chancellor Alexander Schalenberg told reporters in the capital Vienna on Sunday. “So we decided that from Monday… there will be a lockdown for the unconnected.”

The lockdown affects nearly 2 million of the 8.9 million people in the country, news agency APA reported.

The lockdown will initially last 10 days and police have been asked to screen people outside to make sure they have been vaccinated, Schalenberg said, adding that additional officers will go on patrol to control the lockdown.

Unvaccinated people can be fined up to 1,450 euros ($1,660) if they do not comply with the restrictions.

Anti-vaccination protesters protest in Vienna’s Ballhausplatz after a coronavirus crisis summit of the Austrian government [AFP]

Austria has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe, with about 65 percent of the total population being fully vaccinated.

In recent weeks, the country has faced a worrying trend in coronavirus infections. On Sunday, it reported 11,552 new cases from 8,554 a week ago.

“With vaccination rates as they are, we will be caught in a vicious cycle of infection”, Schalenberg said. He said an “embarrassingly low” uptake in vaccination had to be forced upward.

The seven-day infection rate is 775.5 new cases per 100,000 residents. In comparison, the rate in neighboring Germany is 289, which has already sounded the alarm over the rising number.

Schalenberg pointed out that while the seven-day infection rate for vaccinated people has been falling in recent days, the same rate has been rising rapidly for non-vaccinated people.

The chancellor also called on those who have been vaccinated to get their booster shot.

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