The Austrian authorities have decided this Friday to extend the confinement to the entire population from Monday to stop the new wave of COVID cases. The measure will last a maximum of 20 days, and will be evaluated after ten days, according to the country’s media.
After a meeting with the governors of the nine federal states, the Government has also announced mandatory vaccination from February 2022 of all residents of the country, the first country in the European Union (EU) to introduce this measure in the whole of the population. Those who do not comply with the regulations will face administrative sanctions.RELATED
“The citizens will have to assume new restrictions there have been too many who have been unsupportive. I ask them to continue the measures and to reduce the contacts,” said Federal Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg. “Despite months of persuasion, despite all the media campaigns, despite everything, we haven’t been able to convince people to get vaccinated.” Non-immunized people have been confined in the country since this week.
Salzburg and Upper Austria, the two regions with the highest incidence of infections and the risk of collapse of the health system, had already announced a general lockdown for themselves.
The new confinement means that citizens will only be able to leave their homes for certain purposes, such as essential purchases, going to the doctor, helping third parties or walking and exercising outdoors. Non-essential stores, except supermarkets and pharmacies, as well as restaurants, gyms and all leisure spaces will be closed. Working from home is recommended. Nurseries and schools will remain open for “those who need it.”
Cases in Austria are skyrocketing to levels exceeding the worst waves yet, and the infection rate is among the highest on the European continent. Deaths are also on the rise, but at a lower rate so far than last fall’s peak, the highest so far. The authorities have warned of the growing pressure on the health system. Doctors and other health experts had been demanding tougher measures after hospitals in two of the most affected regions – Salzburg and Upper Austria – were on the verge of collapse and the measures adopted so far have not stopped the increase in infections.
The comparatively low level of immunization against COVID-19, 65% – compared to its Western European neighbors – has been described as “shameful” by the government itself. About 25% of the population over 18 years of age have not yet received the full guideline, below the EU average.
Schallenberg has openly criticized the political forces that oppose vaccination, such as the far-right FPÖ party, which has 20% voting intention, and has defined his position as “an attack on the health system.” “So we are faced with a very difficult decision, the decision that a nationwide mandatory vaccination should begin quickly.” The FPÖ has called a large demonstration for this Saturday to protest against the restrictions imposed.
The Austrian authorities had been putting pressure on those reluctant to get vaccinated for several weeks. First, prohibiting those who are not vaccinated or healed from going to gastronomy, leisure or beauty shops. Then, since last Monday, with a controversial confinement only for the unimmunized.
In the two weeks that the restrictions have been applied to those not vaccinated, the number of first doses has grown by 3.4%, doubling the rate of the previous two weeks, according to EFE.
As reported by Austrian media this Thursday, Vienna citizens who have not yet been vaccinated will receive a letter from the city with an appointment already booked that includes a date and time, which they are asked to cancel if they cannot attend.