Austria announces national lockdown, compulsory vaccines as Covid cases soar
Vienna, Nov 19 (EFE).- The Austrian government on Friday approved a general lockdown for all residents starting from next week in a drastic effort to curb a fourth wave of Covid-19 cases.
Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg also announced compulsory vaccines from February 1.
“Citizens will have to assume new restrictions for 20 days because far too many people have been unsupportive,” the chancellor said of the lockdown, which is to come into effect on Monday.
“I ask you to follow the measures and reduce social contacts.”
Around 65% of Austrians have received a full course of a Covid-19 vaccine, meaning it trails other European Union members like Spain, which has a rate of 80%.
A fourth wave of coronavirus has taken hold in the Alpine nation in recent weeks, pushing the incidence rate up to nearly 1,000 cases per 100,000 people.
In an effort to boost vaccine uptake, the government earlier this week placed the country’s unvaccinated under lockdown restrictions, meaning they could only leave their house for essential reasons such as to buy food. They had already been barred from visiting bars, restaurants and hairdressers, although the tailored measures failed to blunt the rise in Covid-19 cases.
Austria is not alone. Neighboring Germany and central European countries like the Czech Republic are grappling with soaring cases, too.
German health authorities have recorded record infection rates for 12 consecutive days. The weekly incidence rate sits at 340 cases per 100,000 people as of Friday, eclipsing the 75.1 cases per 100,000 people last month.
In light of the drastic situation, German lawmakers approved a new set of Covid rules that will require citizens to show proof of vaccination, immunity or a negative test result in order to work or use public transport, regardless of the infection rate.
Officials also recommended that people work from home where possible.
The high number of cases in Germany is heaping pressure on the country’s hospitals, which are reaching capacity amid a staffing shortage.
Like Austria, Germany’s vaccination rate lags other Western European countries having stalled at around 68% of the population. EFE