Austria enters national lockdown after coronavirus cases skyrocket

People walk towards a vaccination centre in Vienna
People walk towards a vaccination centre in Vienna

The measures require people to stay home apart from basic reasons like getting groceries, going to the doctor and exercising.

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Austria has entered a nationwide lockdown to combat soaring coronavirus cases.

The measures require people to stay home apart from basic reasons like getting groceries, going to the doctor and exercising.

Restaurants and most shops must close and larger events will be cancelled. Schools and day care centres can remain open, but parents are encouraged to keep their children home.

It is expected that the rules will last for a maximum of 20 days – until December 13 – but will be re-evaluated after 10.

It comes after the nation reported 15,297 new infections, a week after the number of daily cases topped 10,000, on Saturday.

Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg also announced Friday that Austria will also introduce a vaccine mandate as of February 1. The details of how the mandate will work are not yet clear.

In an interview on Sunday in the Kurier newspaper, Mr Schallenberg said it was “sad” the Austrian government had to resort to a mandate to ensure enough people get vaccinated.

Just under 66% of Austria’s 8.9 million people are fully vaccinated, one of the lowest rates in western Europe.

Hospitals, especially those in the hardest hit regions of Salzburg and upper Austria, are overwhelmed as the number of coronavirus patients rises in intensive care units.

Mr Schallenberg said he and other officials had hoped this summer that a new lockdown would not be necessary and it was a tough decision to impose one that affected vaccinated people.

“That people’s freedoms need to be restricted again is, believe me, also difficult for me to bear,” he said.

The new measures, especially the vaccine mandate, have been met with fierce opposition among some Austrians and vaccine sceptics.

A protest on Saturday in the capital of Vienna drew 40,000 people, according to police, including members of far-right parties and groups.