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Austria puts millions of unvaccinated people in lockdown

Austria is locking down its unvaccinated population in an effort to stop a new surge in Covid cases.

The move means unvaccinated people older than 12 will be banned from leaving their homes from midnight on Sunday, except for basic activities including working, food shopping or going for a walk.

Thought to impact roughly 2 million individuals, the restrictions will allow people who have not had a vaccine to leave their home for a coronavirus jab.

The plan is far from unexpected – with the Government warning last month that it could restrict the movements of those who have not been jabbed before this week saw a record-breaking surge in cases.

Austria has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Europe, with only around 65% of people double-jabbed.

Now they can be fined up to €1,450 (around £1,240) if they do not adhere to the restrictions.

It comes after the Netherlands imposed a partial lockdown earlier this week, becoming the first western European nation to do so since the summer, amid fears of a new wave of infections on the continent.

A demonstrator holds a placard reading 'No to compulsory vaccination' during an anti-vaccination protest at the Ballhausplatz in Vienna, Austria, on November 14, 2021, after a Corona crisis' summit of the Austrian government.
A demonstrator holds a placard reading ‘No to compulsory vaccination’ during an anti-vaccination protest in Vienna on Sunday (Picture: AFP)

The Austrian government are concerned that hospitals will struggle to cope with the growing influx of Covid patients.

Last week, it had already said that only those vaccinated against or recovered from the virus would be allowed into restaurants, hotels and cultural venues.

Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said on Sunday: ‘It’s our job as the government of Austria to protect the people.

‘Therefore we decided that starting Monday… there will be a lockdown for the unvaccinated.’

He added: ‘The situation is serious… We don’t take this step with a light heart but unfortunately it is necessary’.

Austria's Interior Minister Karl Nehammer, Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg and Austrian Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein address the medias during a press conference after a Corona crisis' summit with the Austrian government and provincial governors in Vienna, Austria.
Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg (centre) said the move was designed to protect th population (Picture: AFP)

But there were protests against the new policy on Sunday, with demonstrators claiming the move made vaccinations compulsory.

People who have recently recovered from Covid-19 are exempt from the restrictions in the country of 9 million people, as are those aged under 12 since they are not yet able to be vaccinated.

But, in the capital Vienna, children from the age of five to 11 will be offered jabs from Monday – making it the first region in the EU to offer jabs to the age group.

Appointments were booked for more than 5,000 children when registration opened on Saturday, the city said.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has not yet issued an authorisation for any of the vaccines to be used for this age group, though member states have the right to do so in a public health emergency.

The lockdown will initially last for 10 days, with police asked to check people outside to make sure they are vaccinated, Mr Schallenberg said.

Urging people to get jabbed, he pointed out that while the seven-day infection rate for vaccinated people has been falling in recent days, the same rate is rising quickly for the unvaccinated.

In recent weeks, the country has faced a surge of infections.

Some 11,552 new cases were reported on Sunday, compared to 8,554 the previous week, following a record of more than 13,000 on Saturday.

The seven-day infection rate stands at 775.5 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

In comparison, the rate is at 289 in neighbouring Germany.

So far, some 11,700 people infected with the virus have died in Austria.

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