BERLIN (AP) – The Austrian government has ordered a nationwide lockdown for unvaccinated people starting at midnight on Sunday to combat rising coronavirus infections and deaths.
The move prohibits unvaccinated people 12 and older from leaving their homes in addition to basic activities such as working, shopping for food, going for a walk – or getting vaccinated.
Authorities are concerned about rising infections and deaths and that hospital staff will soon no longer be able to cope with the growing influx of covid-19 patients.
“It is our job as the Austrian government to protect the people,” Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg told reporters in Vienna on Sunday. “Therefore, we decided that from Monday … there will be a lockdown for the unvaccinated.”
The shutdown affects about 2 million people in the alpine country of 8.9 million, reported the news agency APA. This does not apply to children under 12 years of age as they cannot yet be officially vaccinated.
The suspension will initially last for 10 days and the police will go on patrol to check people outside to make sure they are vaccinated, Schallenberg said, adding that additional forces will be assigned to the patrols.
Unvaccinated people can be fined up to 1,450 euros ($ 1,660) if they break the lock.
Austria has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe: only about 65% of the total population is fully vaccinated. In recent weeks, Austria has faced a worrying increase in the number of infections. Authorities reported 11,552 new cases on Sunday; one week ago, there were 8,554 new daily infections.
Deaths have also increased in recent weeks. On Sunday, 17 new deaths were reported. In total, Austria’s death toll from the pandemic is 11,706, the APA reported.
The seven-day infection rate is 775.5 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants. By comparison, the exchange rate is 289 in neighboring Germany, which has already sounded the alarm over rising numbers.
Schallenberg pointed out that while the frequency of seven-day infection for vaccinated people has fallen in recent days, the proportion is rising rapidly for the unvaccinated.
“The proportion for the unvaccinated is over 1,700, while that for the vaccinated is 383,” the chancellor said.
Schallenberg also urged people who have been vaccinated to get their booster syringe and said that otherwise “we will never get out of this vicious circle.”