Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said on Sunday that a nationwide lockdown would begin on Monday for those not vaccinated against Covid-19 or recently recovered, as the EU member fights a record surge in cases.
Around 65 percent of Austria’s almost nine million people are vaccinated, below the EU average of 67 percent, while daily increases in infections have hit records this week.
Schallenberg told reporters:
The situation is serious … We don’t take this step with a light heart but unfortunately it is necessary.
The lockdown means people over 12 who are neither vaccinated nor recently recovered will not be allowed to leave the house except for reasons such as buying essential supplies, exercise or seeking medical care.
The lockdowns across the Alpine country are to be enforced with random spot checks for the next 10 days. After that it will be reviewed, Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein said.
Parliament – controlled by Schallenberg’s conservative-Green coalition – is expected to approve the measure later Sunday.
Schallenberg and Mueckstein called again on those who have not yet been vaccinated to get jabbed.
Also from Monday, Vienna is becoming the first region in the EU to offer jabs to children from the age of five to 11 at a vaccination centre in the capital.
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.
Last week, the government had already said that only those vaccinated against or recovered from the virus would be allowed into restaurants, hotels and cultural venues.
So far, some 11 700 people infected with the coronavirus have died in Austria. Daily case increases hit an all-time high of more than 13 000 new infections on Saturday.