Austria “Just Days Away” From Unleashing Lockdown On The “Shameful” Unvaccinated

By The Local

Austria’s chancellor on Friday said that the government would give the go-ahead for a lockdown for unvaccinated people, to be introduced in the two highest-incidence regions from Monday and possibly also nationwide.

“Our aim is clear: we want on Sunday to give the green light for a nationwide lockdown for the unvaccinated,” Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg told a press conference.

This would mean people without proof of 2G (full vaccination or recovery from Covid-19) would be unable to leave their homes except for essential reasons.

He described Austria’s vaccination rate – just 65% of the population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19 – as “shameful”.

A lockdown for the unvaccinated was proposed on Thursday by the governor of Upper Austria, the region with the highest Covid-19 incidence rates, pending legal approval from the government.

Also on Thursday, Austria’s Corona Commission warned of a “serious threat to medical care” for the whole population and recommended that a lockdown for the unvaccinated should be introduced nationwide.

Schallenberg did not confirm whether the lockdown would apply in the whole country or only for the highest incidence regions , but said he was in favour of “a nationwide solution”. Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein confirmed the lockdown would apply at least in Upper Austria and Salzburg, the two highest incidence regions.

Both regions had already announced tighter Covid restrictions this week in response to the severe strain on the healthcare sector, including extending the FFP2 mask mandate, banning the sale of alcohol at Christmas markets, and cancelling most large events over the next few weeks.

It is not yet clear exactly how the lockdown would work, nor how it would be enforced.

People without proof of 2G (either full vaccination or a recent recovery from Covid-19) would only be allowed to leave their homes under certain circumstances, similar to previous lockdowns for the general population, such as work or essential shopping and exercise. Schallenberg reiterated previous statements that the government had no intention of bringing in another general lockdown.

“According to the incremental plan, we actually have just days until we have to introduce the lockdown for unvaccinated people,” Schallenberg said, adding that the restrictions mean “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.”

One of the challenges of such a differentiated lockdown is how checks will be enforced. 

Schallenberg addressed this in his comments on Friday, telling reporters:

“We do not live in a police state. We cannot and do not want to check every street corner.”

The announcement comes as Austria continues to report some of the highest Covid-19 incidence rates in Europe, with two of its nine regions’ seven-day incidence rates (new cases per 100,000 people) above the 1,000 mark.

[ZH: As we previously noted, Austria would be the first major country to exclusively impose ‘stay at home’ measures on the unvaccinated, but it could eventually be replicated elsewhere, despite the waning immunity that the vaccine itself offers.]

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