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Austria to ‘green light’ lockdown for unvaccinated citizens amid infection surge

As daily infections hit a high and hospital intensive care units are strained, Austria is preparing to introduce a lockdown for unvaccinated citizens.

According to Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg, the parliament should give the “green light” for the measure on Sunday.

“I don’t see why two-thirds should lose their freedom because one-third is dithering,” Schallenberg said, referring to the citizens who have decided to remain unvaccinated. “For me, it is clear that there should be no lockdown for the vaccinated out of solidarity for the unvaccinated.”

Under the new restrictions, those not fully vaccinated would only be allowed to leave their homes for “essential” reasons, like going to work, grocery shopping, or attending doctors’ appointments.

While Schallenberg gave no indication of when the new guidance would go into effect, he did say random spot checks would be conducted throughout public spaces to make sure the lockdown is enforced. The chancellor said the lockdowns would be “namely, exactly what we all had to suffer through in 2020.”

He added that the restrictions would be a “very harsh measure,” but appear to be necessary and “probably inevitable” as the Austrian national health agency is reporting that the rate of cases is more than double what it was in late October.

In recent weeks, measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 and encourage more people to get vaccinated have been introduced, including barring unvaccinated people from entering public spaces like restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, and hair salons.

According to Reuters, Eastern European states are enduring some of the world’s highest daily death tolls per capita. Germany, which neighbors Austria, has also said it will tighten restrictions on the unvaccinated.

Schallenberg also said that Austrian authorities are considering a vaccine mandate for certain professional groups while he called the country’s vaccination rate “shamefully low,” at about 65 percent. While that percentage is larger than in the U.S., it is one of the lowest in the European Union.

ARTICLE: ELIZABETH HERTZBERG

MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE

PHOTO CREDITS: BLOOMBERG

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