Chancellor says Austria lockdown imminent as COVID-19 cases surge, despite mass vaccinations
Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg announced that a lockdown is only "days away" as millions remain unvaccinated in Austria and new cases of Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) soar.
Once 30 percent of intensive care beds are occupied with COVID patients, those who have not been vaccinated will be put into lockdowns, according to government plans. The current level is 20 percent and rising fast.
Around 65 percent of Austria's population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but this is the lowest rate of any Western European country apart from Liechtenstein, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control
"According to the incremental plan we actually have just days until we have to introduce the lockdown for unvaccinated people," Schallenberg said, adding that Austria's vaccination rate is "shamefully low." It also has an infection rate double that of the UK.
Austrian government to ban unvaccinated from public areas and more
The conservative-led Austrian government will be banning the unvaccinated from restaurants, theaters, ski lifts and providers of "services close to the body" such as hairdressers.
"A lockdown for the unvaccinated means one cannot leave one's home unless one is going to work, shopping for essentials, stretching one's legs – namely exactly what we all had to suffer through in 2020," Schallenberg said.
Some conservatives argue that a lockdown for the unvaccinated would be unenforceable, but Schallenberg declared that the police could conduct spot checks to ensure restrictions were being observed.
He also noted that although such restrictions are very harsh
, they also appear to be necessary and probably inevitable. "I don't see why two-thirds should lose their freedom because one-third is dithering. For me, it is clear that there should be no lockdown for the vaccinated out of solidarity for the unvaccinated," he said.
The surge in Austria comes after the Eastern European states, which had some of the continent's lowest vaccination rates, experienced the world's highest daily death tolls per capita.
Meanwhile, neighboring Germany also plans on tightening restrictions on the unvaccinated as infections soared.
Germany's health ministry reported that the nation's one-day COVID case numbers topped 50,000 for the first time, and politicians have been meeting to discuss the possibility of winter lockdown measures.
The Robert Koch Institute
registered 50,196 new cases, up from 33,949 from a week earlier, just hours after one of the top virologists in the country warned of 100,000 deaths over winter if the government fails to take action. (Related: 17,503 DEAD, 1.7 million injured (50% SERIOUS) reported in European Union's database of adverse drug reactions for COVID-19 shots
Scholz, who is expected to be the next chancellor in Germany, also said that he will hold a meeting of state leaders to discuss COVID restrictions. "What we need now is for the country to pull together in one direction. It is very, very important that we take every measure to ensure that we can protect the health of the citizens of our country," he said.
Germany has so far vaccinated around 67 percent of its population, around the same percentage as the United Kingdom. However, it is lagging in regards to booster shots: The U.K. has so far offered boosters to everyone above the age of 50, administering 11 million doses so far.
In the Netherlands, non-essential shops, entertainment venues and close-contact services will be forced to shut by 6 p.m., while supermarkets close at 8 p.m. Other measures include teleworking for all sectors when possible
, with a limit of four guests per household, and no spectators at sporting events. The country also re-imposed the 1.5-meter social distancing in other public places.
Caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte called the restrictions a "hard blow." The vast majority of people in the country have been vaccinated. The Netherlands public health authority recorded 16,287 COVID-19 cases on Friday, November 12, 44 individuals fewer than the highest-recorded numbers since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Read more about how other countries are handling the COVID-19 surges at Pandemic.news