Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg stated Friday that Austria will go into national lockdown to contain a fourth wave of coronavirus cases, as new COVID-19 infections reached a record high amid a pandemic spike across Europe.
The lockdown will begin on Monday and run for 10 days, according to Schallenberg.
In addition, from February 1, the country will make immunizations mandatory.
The majority of shops will close next week, and cultural activities will be canceled. People will only be permitted to leave their houses for particular purposes, such as shopping, seeing the doctor, or exercising.
The country’s health minister, Wolfgang Mueckstein, stated that kindergartens and schools would stay open for those who required them, but that all parents should keep their children at home if at all possible.
According to ORF, Schallenberg stated, “We do not want a fifth wave.” “And we don’t want a sixth or seventh wave, either.”
The full shutdown is the latest attempt to rein in the steadily increasing number of cases. This is the fourth countrywide shutdown since the epidemic broke out last year. The nation recorded 15,809 new illnesses on Friday, a record high.
Unvaccinated persons were excluded from restaurants, hotels, and major gatherings in Austria earlier this month.
And, beginning Monday, the government will impose a countrywide lockdown on anyone who have not been vaccinated.
Vaccinated persons would no longer be subject to lockdown limitations, according to government officials: Chancellor Sebastian Kurz called the pandemic “over” for individuals who had got the vaccination during the summer. However, when the number of cases of the virus continued to rise, the administration stated it had no choice but to extend it to everyone.
“This is really unpleasant,” Schallenberg said.
Many variables, including Austria’s lower-than-expected vaccination rate and the virus’s seasonal impact, led to the current situation, according to Mueckstein, the health minister. He did, however, apologize for state and federal officials’ initial hesitation to enact tougher restrictions.
“Unfortunately, in certain places, even we, as the federal government, have fallen short of our expectations,” he remarked. “I’d want to express my regret.”
The impact of the lockdown will be examined after ten days. It can be continued to a maximum of 20 days if virus instances have not decreased significantly.
Intensive care doctors in Austria applauded the government’s decision.
“The record infection numbers that we’ve been seeing day after day will only be reflected in normal and critical care units over a period of time.” “A full halt is long overdue,” said Walter Hasibeder, head of the Society for Anesthesiology, Resuscitation, and Intensive Care Medicine, to the Austrian news agency APA.
“Given the current infection trends, we feel there are no alternatives to even tighter contact restrictions than we’ve seen previously,” he said.
Over 10,000 new illness cases have been recorded every day over the previous seven days throughout the country. Hospitals have been overburdened with new COVID-19 patients, and fatalities have been on the rise once again. In Austria, the virus has claimed the lives of 11,951 individuals thus far.
The situation is particularly bad in the Salzburg and Upper Austrian areas, which have been hammered particularly hard by the growing case numbers. The seven-day incidence of new infections in Salzburg, for example, is roughly double the national norm.
In recent days, hospitals in both states have issued warnings that their intensive care units (ICUs) are near capacity, and hospitals in Salzburg have begun contemplating potential triage processes to take only the most serious cases.
Austria, with a population of 8.9 million people, has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe, with just 65.7 percent of the population having had all of their vaccinations.
Despite all of the persuading and marketing, Schallenberg believes that too few individuals have elected to be vaccinated, leaving the country with little choice but to implement obligatory vaccinations in February.
The specifics will be clarified in the following weeks, according to the chancellor, but individuals who refused to get vaccinated can expect to be penalized. Additionally, starting four months following their second dosage, booster injections are now accessible to all immunized persons.
“For a long time, the consensus in our country was that obligatory vaccination was not something we wanted,” Schallenberg said. “It’s been a long time, maybe too long.”