Austria orders nationwide lockdown for unvaccinated people

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Berlin: The Austrian government has ordered a nationwide lockdown for people are not fully vaccinated in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the country.

The move prohibits unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people aged 12 and older from leaving their homes from midnight Sunday (local time), except for basic activities such as working, grocery shopping, exercise – or getting vaccinated.

Kurt Switil was vaccinated against COVID-19 in Vienna back in April. The Austrian government is now urging people who were vaccinated earlier in the year to come forward for a booster doseCredit:AP

The move follows a series of regional lockdowns last week.

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

“We must raise the vaccination rate. It is shamefully low,” Schallenberg told a news conference announcing the new measure after a video call with the governors of Austria’s nine provinces.

“It’s our job as the government of Austria to protect the people.”

The lockdown affects about 2 million people in the country of 8.9 million people, news agency APA reported. It doesn’t apply to children under the age of 12 because vaccines are yet to be approved for this age group in Austria.

Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg’s government has announced a nationwide lockdown for all unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people aged 12 and over.Credit:AP

While the Netherlands is dealing with its surge in infections by imposing a partial lockdown that applies to all, Austria’s conservative-led government says it wants to avoid imposing further restrictions on those who are fully vaccinated.

The Austrian lockdown will initially last for 10 days and police had been asked to check the vaccination certificates of people seen outside, Schallenberg said, adding that additional officers would be on patrol during the lockdown.

Unvaccinated people can be fined up to €1450 euros ($2262) if they do not adhere to the restrictions.

Austria has one of the lowest vaccination rates in western Europe: only around 65 per cent of the total population is fully vaccinated. Many Austrians are sceptical about vaccines, a view encouraged by the far-right Freedom Party, the third biggest in parliament.

The country reported 11,552 new cases on Sunday; a week ago, there were 8554 new daily infections.

The seven-day infection rate stands at 775.5 new cases per 100,000 people. In comparison, the rate is at 289 in neighbouring Germany, which has already also sounded the alarm over the rising numbers.

Schallenberg pointed out that while the seven-day infection rate for vaccinated people has been falling in recent days, the same rate is rising quickly for the unvaccinated.

“The rate for the unvaccinated is at over 1700, while for the vaccinated it is at 383,” the Chancellor said.

Schallenberg also called on people who have been vaccinated to get a booster shot, saying that otherwise “we will never get out of this vicious circle.”

AP, Reuters

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