As it fights a record surge in daily cases that has hit an all-time high of more than 13,000 new infections on Saturday, Austria is imposing a nationwide lockdown, first in Europe, for those not vaccinated against Covid-19 or recently recovered, Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said.
Austria has one of the lowest vaccination rates -65 percent- in Western Europe, which is below the average of 67% in EU and Schallenberg called it shamefully low, stressing they must raise it considering the severity of the situation and the growing strain on intensive-care units.
Though the initial plan was for Austria to implement the restrictive measures once the number of people admitted to ICUs reaches 600, Schallenberg noted it wasn’t sensible to wait any longer.
Schallenberg, announced previously on Friday imposing the lockdown in two regions that were most impacted by the fallout of people refusing to vaccinate- Upper Austria and Salzburg.
Austria is the first country in Europe to reinstate the same national lockdown’s restrictions on daily movements that applied before vaccines were rolled out, but this time they only affect a minority of the population.
Austrian parliament, which is controlled by Schallenberg’s conservative-Green coalition, approved the measure late on Sunday in an effort of the conservative-led government to avoid imposing further restrictions on fully vaccinated.
The lockdown bans people over 12 who are neither vaccinated nor recently recovered from leaving the house except for buying essential supplies, exercise, seeking medical care, going to work – or getting vaccinated.
New measures, which are to be enforced with random spot checks for the next 10 days, only extend restrictions imposed a week ago banned the unvaccinated from places like restaurants, hotels, theatres and ski lifts.
Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein said the measures will be reviewed after the initial 10 days.
Although the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has not yet authorized any of the vaccines to be used for this age group unless in public health emergency, Vienna, also starting Monday, will become the first EU region to offer vaccines to children aged 5 to 11 at a vaccination centre in the capital.
More than 5,000 children were signed up for the jab since the registration opened on Saturday.