Austria enters difficult-to-enforce COVID-19 lockdown for unvaccinated – Community News

Austria enters difficult-to-enforce COVID-19 lockdown for unvaccinated

People walk past a vaccination point amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak as the Austrian government imposes a lockdown on people who have not been fully vaccinated, in Vienna, Austria Nov. 14, 2021. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

VIENNA, Nov 15 (Reuters) – Austria was closed on Monday to people who have not been vaccinated against the coronavirus, with police checks being strengthened to ensure compliance, although the city’s streets seemed as busy as usual.

The conservative-led government says about two million people in the country of about nine million are now allowed to leave their homes only for a limited number of reasons, such as traveling to work or shopping for essentials.

The aim is to stem a rise in infections to record levels fueled by a full vaccination coverage of only about 65% of the population, one of the lowest in Western Europe.

Austria has been one of the hardest hit by Europe’s fourth wave of infections that has led governments to consider reintroducing lockdowns.

“My goal is very clear: get the unvaccinated people vaccinated, not lock up the unvaccinated,” Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg told ORF radio as he explained the lockdown, which was announced Sunday.

Many Austrians are skeptical of vaccines, a stance encouraged by the far-right Freedom Party, the third largest in parliament, which is planning a protest against the government’s coronavirus policies on Saturday.

The number of first-time vaccinations has risen since the unvaccinated were barred from places such as restaurants, cafes, theaters and ski lifts last week.

Police are carrying out additional checks and Home Affairs Minister Karl Nehammer said on Sunday they would check the vaccination status of all members of the public with whom they have contact.

There are widespread doubts, including among Schallenberg’s conservatives and the police, whether this lockdown can be properly enforced.

For example, it can be difficult to check if an unvaccinated person is on his way to work, which is allowed, or shopping for non-essential items, which is not the case.

Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Nick Macfie

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