COVID-19: Austria to lock up millions of unvaccinated people ‘within days’ as coronavirus cases rise | world news – Community News
Covid-19

COVID-19: Austria to lock up millions of unvaccinated people ‘within days’ as coronavirus cases rise | world news

Austria is just “days” away from detaining millions of people who have not been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus as daily infections have reached an all-time high, the country’s chancellor has said.

About 65% of Austria’s population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, national statistics show.

However, according to data from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, the country has the lowest vaccination rate of all Western European countries, with the exception of Liechtenstein – with about 40,000 inhabitants.

Many Austrians are skeptical of vaccinations, a view encouraged by the far-right Freedom Party, the third largest in parliament.

Under a step-by-step government plan agreed in September, once 30% of intensive care beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients, people who have not been vaccinated against the coronavirus will be placed under lockdown rules, with restrictions on their daily freedoms .

The current level is 20% and it is rising rapidly.

Austria has the second lowest vaccination rate of all Western European countries except Liechtenstein
Image:
Austria has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe

On Thursday, official figures showed 760.6 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants were reported in the past seven days – a rate three times that of neighboring Germany, where record numbers are also raising the alarm.

“According to the incremental plan, we really only have a few days before we have to introduce the lockdown for unvaccinated people,” Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg told a news conference, adding that Austria’s vaccination rate is “embarrassingly low”.

“A lockdown for unvaccinated people means you can’t leave your home unless you go to work, shop (for essentials), stretch your legs – namely exactly what we all had to endure in 2020,” said Mr Schallenberg, referring to three national closures last year.

Austria has taken a series of measures in recent weeks to contain the spread of COVID-19 and encourage more people to get vaccinated.

New rules came into effect on Monday barring unvaccinated people who have not recovered from infection in restaurants, hotels, hair salons and major public events.

During a visit to Bregenz in western Austria on Thursday, Mr Schallenberg said a lockdown for unvaccinated people is “probably inevitable” and the unvaccinated will face an “uncomfortable” winter and Christmas, the Austrian news agency reported.

“I don’t see why two-thirds should lose their freedom because a third is in doubt,” Schallenberg said. “It is clear to me that there should be no lockdown for vaccinated people out of solidarity with the unvaccinated.”

The province of Upper Austria, which has the lowest vaccination rate and the highest infection rate of the nine Austrian provinces, said it plans to lead the way in locking up unvaccinated people by introducing the measure on Monday.

Austria’s rise in cases comes at a time when Eastern European states, with the continent’s lowest vaccination rates, are experiencing some of the world’s highest daily death tolls per capita.

Dutch experts on Thursday recommended a two-week partial lockdown, which would be the first in Western Europe since vaccines were widely deployed, while other countries require vaccination certificates to enter public areas.

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