VIENNA, AUSTRIA – OCTOBER 26: People holding placards and banners gather to protest COVID-19 measures, vaccinations and government after the number of cases has increased in recent days.
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Austria is expected to impose lockdown restrictions on millions of unvaccinated people in the coming days.
Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said at a press conference on Friday that his government wanted to give the “green light” for such measures by Sunday, reported the Austrian press agency. Legislators will meet over the weekend to discuss the move, the news agency said.
The Chancellor rejected a nationwide blockade for all citizens of Austria and told reporters on Friday that the two thirds of the population who had accepted the vaccination were not forced to show “solidarity” with the unvaccinated. However, he warned that other restrictions could be tightened.
Schallenberg said last month that if Covid-19 cases continued to rise, unvaccinated people would face new lockdown restrictions in line with the government’s gradual plan. This strategy would lock down unvaccinated people once coronavirus patients occupy 30% of intensive care beds in hospitals.
According to Reuters, Covid patients currently occupy 20% of intensive care beds in Austria, and this number is rising rapidly.
The country recorded 67,148 new cases of Covid-19 in the past seven days – a new weekly record high, data from Johns Hopkins University shows.
“We only have days until we have to introduce a lockdown for unvaccinated people,” Schallenberg said at a press conference on Thursday.
The warning came after Schallenberg told reporters on Thursday during a visit to the city of Bregenz that he did not see “why two thirds should lose their freedom because one third is hesitating”.
“It is clear to me that out of solidarity with the unvaccinated, there should be no lockdown for vaccinated people,” he said, according to the Associated Press.
The Chancellor also said Thursday that it was “probably inevitable” that Austria should impose a lockdown on those who have not been vaccinated, adding that the unvaccinated are facing an “uncomfortable” winter and Christmas, local media reported.
According to Reuters, Schallenberg described the vaccination rate in Austria as “shamefully low”.
Data from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control shows that around 65% of the Austrian population are fully vaccinated. This means that Austria has the second lowest vaccination rate in Western Europe after Liechtenstein.
Official government data meanwhile show that 760 out of 100,000 people in Austria were infected with Covid in the last week. The least vaccinated federal state of Upper Austria, in which 1,193 out of 100,000 people tested positive in the last week, has already announced that it will ban the unvaccinated from Monday. The state of Innsbruck is also allegedly considering a lockdown, regardless of plans at the national level.
Unvaccinated individuals are prohibited from visiting non-essential public places such as restaurants and cinemas, and using services that require close contact, such as beauty salons and hairdressers, are prohibited.
Austria has problems with vaccination resistance in its attempt to introduce the Covid vaccination. In September, the newly founded party, people-freedom-basic rights – a group of Covid vaccine skeptics – won three seats in the Upper Austrian state parliament.
Meanwhile, Austria’s third largest political party, the right-wing FPÖ, has openly condemned the Covid vaccine.