Austria on Friday announced that it will impose a complete lockdown and make vaccinations mandatory, becoming the first country in the European Union to take such an extreme measure in a bid to tackle the fresh outbreak of coronavirus infection.
Other European nations are also tightening restrictions as the infection rate of people affected by the Chinese virus has spiked with the onset of winter. However, no other country in Europe has gone to the extent of imposing a blanket lockdown, reminiscent of the first few months of the outbreak that swept across the world in early 2020.
Besides Austria, only the Vatican has mandated vaccinations for all. But the fall has brought with it a new surge of coronavirus infections across the continent, with nations such as Spain and Portugal, which are among the highest vaccination coverage, also witnessing an uptick in the number of COVID-19 caseloads.
Announcing the sweeping measures taken by the government, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said lockdown in Austria will start from Monday, i.e 22 November 2021, while the vaccinations will become mandatory starting February 1 next year.
Approximately, two out of three Austrians are fully vaccinated, one of the lowest inoculation rates in Europe. Schallenberg has pinned the blame on low vaccination adoption rates in Austria as the primary reasons for his government’s decision to enforce a complete lockdown.
“Despite months of persuasion, we have not succeeded in convincing enough people to get vaccinated,” Schallenberg told a press conference in the western Tyrol state, where he met regional government heads.
“Sustainably increasing the vaccination rate is the only way to get out of this vicious circle,” he said.
Schallenberg also slammed those who promoted vaccine hesitancy and called their efforts of undermining the country’s inoculation efforts as an “attack on the health system”, adding that vaccinations were the “exit ticket” out of the pandemic.
After lockdown will be imposed in Austria, people will not be allowed to venture out of their houses, except for going out to work, shopping for essentials and exercising. Schools will remain open but parents will be requested to keep their children at home if possible. In addition to this, the government will encourage remote working so that crowding in office places could be avoided.
Starting this week, Austria had already imposed a lockdown for those not vaccinated or recently cured, becoming the first European country to do so. However, spiralling coronavirus cases forced the government to reconsider its decision and impose a sweeping lockdown to curb the spread of the virus.
On Thursday, a new record of more than 15,000 new cases were recorded in the Alpine EU member of nearly nine million people.