This content is not available in your region

COVID-19: Austria begins nationwide lockdown for unvaccinated people

Access to the comments Comments
By Euronews  with AFP, AP
euronews_icons_loading
FILE - The patient Kurt Switil, left, receives a Pfizer vaccination against the COVID-19 disease by a doctor in the vaccination centre in Vienna, Austria, April 2021.
FILE - The patient Kurt Switil, left, receives a Pfizer vaccination against the COVID-19 disease by a doctor in the vaccination centre in Vienna, Austria, April 2021.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Lisa Leutner, File

Austria has begun implementing a nationwide lockdown for people who are unvaccinated or who haven't recently recovered from COVID-19.

The new measure came into force at midnight following an announcement from the country's chancellor on Sunday.

"The situation is serious," Alexander Schallenberg said, adding that the measure was, unfortunately, "necessary".

"It's our job as the government of Austria to protect the people," he said.

The lockdown applies to people over the age of 12 who have not received two doses of the coronavirus vaccine. They are forbidden from leaving their homes except for basic activities such as working, grocery shopping, going for a walk — or getting vaccinated.

Schallenberg emphasised that the incidence rate among the unvaccinated was much higher than among those who had the jab, at around 1700 new cases per 100,000 people.

Authorities are worried about rising infections and deaths, with fears that hospitals will no longer be able to cope with the growing influx of COVID-19 patients.

The lockdown affects about 2 million people in the Alpine country of 8.9 million, according to the APA news agency.

Random checks will be carried out to make sure the population is following the measure which will be re-evaluated in 10 days. Fines for breaking the measure can be up to €1450, DPA reported.

The measure is being put in place as the country reports record-high cases of COVID-19. More than 13,000 new cases were reported on Saturday.

Vaccination rate 'shamefully low'

Around 65% of Austria's population is fully vaccinated, a lower percentage than the European average. Schallenberg said on Friday that the vaccination rate in the country was "shamefully low".

Austria had already increased restrictions on unvaccinated people this month, with people needing to be vaccinated or recovered from a COVID-19 infection for a host of activities.

Vaccines are currently available for people over the age of 12, but amid the crisis, the city of Vienna will begin vaccinating children between the ages of 5 and 11.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is still being evaluated by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for this age group, but the city will put in place a pilot project to vaccinate 200 kids a day.

Germany prepares for return to teleworking

In neighbouring Germany, cases are also rising significantly, with AFP reporting the country is preparing a draft law for a return to people working from home.

The infection rate hit a new high of 289 cases per 100,000 people on Sunday, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).

German employers will have to offer the possibility of working from home in the absence of a "compelling professional reason" to come to the office, according to the draft law.

Anyone going to work will also be asked to prove that they are vaccinated or have a negative test.