Austria imposes lockdown on the unvaccinated as virus surges

Austria took what its leader called the “dramatic” step of implementing a nationwide lockdown for unvaccinated people who have not recently had Covid-19, perhaps the most drastic of a string of measures being taken by European governments to get a massive regional resurgence of the virus under control.

he move, which took effect at midnight, prohibits people 12 and older who haven’t been vaccinated or recently recovered from leaving their homes except for basic activities such as working, grocery shopping, going to school or university or for a walk or getting vaccinated.

The lockdown is initially being imposed until November 24 in the Alpine country of 8.9 million.

It does not apply to children under 12 because they cannot yet officially get vaccinated, though the capital, Vienna, on Monday opened up vaccinations for under-12s as part of a pilot project and reported high demand.

Officials say police patrols and checks will be stepped up and unvaccinated people can be fined up to 1,450 euros ($1,660) if they violate the lockdown.

“We really didn’t take this step lightly and I don’t think it should be talked down,” Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg told Oe1 radio.

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The plague column is light up at the Graben in the city centre in Vienna (Lisa Leutner/AP)

“This a dramatic step, about two million people in this country are affected. … What we are trying is precisely to reduce contact between the unvaccinated and vaccinated to a minimum, and also contact between the unvaccinated.”

“My aim is very clearly to get the unvaccinated to get themselves vaccinated and not to lock down the vaccinated,” Mr Schallenberg added.

“In the long term, the way out of this vicious circle we are in — and it is a vicious circle, we are stumbling from wave to lockdown and that can’t carry on ad infinitum — is only vaccination.”

About 65% of Austria’s population is fully vaccinated, a rate Mr Schallenberg described as “shamefully low”.

All students at schools, whether vaccinated or not, are now required to take three Covid-19 tests per week, at least one of them a PCR test.

The leader of the far-right opposition Freedom Party vowed to combat the new restrictions by “all parliamentary and legal means we have available”.

Herbert Kickl said that “two million people are being practically imprisoned without having done anything wrong”.

On Monday, Mr Kickl announced on Facebook that he had tested positive for Covid-19 and must self-isolate for 14 days, so he will not be able to attend a protest in Vienna planned for Saturday.

Authorities are concerned about rising infections and increasing pressure on hospitals.

Austria on Monday recorded 894.3 new cases per 100,000 residents over the previous seven days.

That is far worse than neighbouring Germany, which has set its own pandemic records of late, and has 303 new cases per 100,000 residents over seven days.

Berlin on Monday became the latest of several German states to limit access to restaurants, cinemas, museums and concerts to people who have been vaccinated or recently recovered, shutting out other unvaccinated people, even those who have tested negative.

Under-18s are exempt.

On Thursday, the German parliament is due to vote on a new legal framework for coronavirus restrictions drawn up by the parties that are expected to form the country’s next coalition government.

Those plans are reportedly being beefed up to allow tougher contact restrictions than originally planned.

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Austria’s New Coronavirus Lockdown Applies Only to the Unvaccinated.