BERLIN: The Austrian government ordered a nationwide lockdown for unvaccinated people starting midnight Sunday to slow the fast spread of the coronavirus in the country.
The move prohibits unvaccinated individuals older than age 12 from leaving their homes except for basic activities such as working, grocery shopping, going for a walk — or getting vaccinated.
Authorities are concerned about rising deaths and that hospital staff will no longer be able to handle the growing influx of COVID-19 patients.
“It's our job as the government of Austria to protect the people,” Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg told reporters in Vienna on Sunday. “Therefore we decided that starting Monday ... there will be a lockdown for the unvaccinated.”
The lockdown affects about 2 million people in the Alpine country of 8.9 million people, news agency APA reported. It doesn't apply to children under the age of 12 because they cannot yet officially get vaccinated.
The lockdown will initially last for 10 days and police have been asked to check people outside to make sure they are vaccinated, Schallenberg said adding that additional officers would go on patrol to control the lockdown.
Unvaccinated people can be fined up to 1,450 euros ($1,660) if they do not adhere to the restrictions.
Austria has one of the lowest vaccination rates in western Europe: only around 65% of the total population is fully vaccinated. In recent weeks, the country has faced a worrying trend in infections. The country reported 11,552 new cases on Sunday; a week ago there were 8,554 new infections.
The seven-day infection rate stands at 775.5 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants. In comparison, the rate is at 289 in neighboring Germany, which has already also sounded the alarm over the rising numbers.
Schallenberg 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.
“The rate for the unvaccinated is at over 1,700, while for the vaccinated it is at 383,” the chancellor said.
Schallenberg also called on people who have been vaccinated to get their booster shot, saying that otherwise “we will never get out of this vicious circle."