On Friday, Austria became the first European country to impose a new lockdown to curb infections in the autumn, as well as make vaccination against the coronavirus mandatory.
The country, which is currently recording its highest number of new infections (more than 15,000 new cases on Thursday) since the start of the pandemic, will go into confinement from Monday for a maximum of 20 days, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said, according to Belga News Agency.
The announcement comes in the same week that Austria entered a lockdown for vaccinated people over the age of 12, which was heavily criticised by experts and unvaccinated citizens.
As part of the country’s fourth nationwide lockdown to curb rising infections, only supermarkets, drugstores and pharmacies can remain open, while restaurants, bars, and cafes, among others, will have to close their doors for at least the next ten days.
People can only leave their homes for shopping, exercise, work (if they cannot work from home) or to visit a doctor. The measures will be relaxed by 13 December for those who have been vaccinated and recovered, as the 2G rule will once again apply from this point onwards, meaning around two million unvaccinated people will remain in lockdown.
Way out of vicious circle
Meanwhile, from 1 February 2022, mandatory vaccination for the entire population will be introduced, a measure no other EU country has implemented so far.
Just over 66% of the Austria’s population has been fully vaccinated in the country, according to the latest figures. “Despite months of persuasion, we have not managed to get enough people vaccinated,” said Schallenberg, adding that “the only way out of this vicious circle is to increase the vaccination rate in the long term.”
In comparison, 75% of the entire population in Belgium has been fully vaccinated, but here too, the number of new Covid-19 cases is increasing at a rapid pace.
However, Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo stressed during the latest Consultative Committee on Wednesday that a full lockdown should be avoided. To ensure this can happen, new measures were announced which will go into force on Saturday 20 November until 28 January.
Meanwhile, vaccination will be made mandatory for healthcare workers from 1 April. Between 1 January and 31 March, healthcare staff will have to prove that they have either been vaccinated against Covid-19 or have undergone a PCR test within 72 hours.