Austria will be entering a fourth national lockdown on Monday, as Covid-19 cases continue their surge. This makes Austria the first country in Western Europe that will impose strict measures this fall.
The countries unvaccinated have been prohibited from leaving their homes for any non-essential purpose.
At a press conference, Alexander Schallenberg, Chancellor of Germany, announced that the lockdown measures would be extended across the country starting Monday. Schallenberg stated that the lockdown will last no more than 20 days but that it would initially be in place for 10 days.
In a first for the region, he also announced that Covid vaccination would become mandatory in Austria from Feb. 1.
Thursday saw the addition of 15,145 cases of Covid-19 to Austria’s hospital system. This is a new high for daily positive test results. In Austria, hospitalizations, deaths, and the number of ICU patients with Covid are all on the rise.
Austria has a population of around 65% who have been fully vaccinated against this virus. Schallenberg previously called it “shamefully low” and said that the country has the second-lowest vaccination rate in Western Europe, after Liechtenstein.
According to the Austrian Press Agency, ministers of government were meeting in the early hours Friday morning to discuss ways to curb Austria’s spiraling Covid crisis.
Austria’s chancellor has made a major U-turn by implementing a countrywide lockdown. He stated to reporters last week, that the two-thirds who have accepted immunization would not be forced into solidarity with the unvaccinated.
Original plan of the government was to lock down unvaccinated patients once coronavirus sufferers occupied 30% of ICU beds at hospitals. This move, , came into effect on Monday.
The move was criticized for being difficult to enforce as people who were not vaccinated were still allowed to travel to work, shop at the grocery store, and meet with certain individuals outside.
Austrian police officers have been conducting random checks this Week on individuals over 12 years old — to whom the current lockdown is applicable if they’re not vaccinated — in order to verify their vaccine status.
Although Schallenberg had rejected the idea of placing all Austrians under lockdown previously, some members the country’s coalition government were calling to tighten restrictions on the vaccinated while hospitals and ICU units came under increasing pressure.
The country’s third-largest party, the Freedom Party, has been pushing back against the government. It started Friday that Austria was a dictatorship.
They were openly skeptical of Covid vaccines and planned to protest the lockdown measures that are being imposed on unvaccinated people in Vienna this weekend.