Austria will reimpose statewide lockdown on Nov. 22 and introduce mandatory vaccination on Feb. 1, announced Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg on Friday.
Last week, Austria placed an “unprecedented” lockdown on almost 2 million unvaccinated citizens in an effort to contain the fourth wave of coronavirus.
“The aim is to get the unvaccinated to get vaccinated, not to lock up the unvaccinated,” the Chancellor said back then.
But a steady rise in cases has now forced the government to extend the lockdown to the rest of the population, from Nov. 22 to Dec. 2.
If the pressure in the health system does not show a significant drop by that date, the measure will be extended for another 10 days.
Under the new lockdown, everyone 12 years and above is prohibited from stepping outside for any reason other than employment or essential shopping. People attempting to enter the country must now present a PCR test instead of the antigen one.
Fines of up to 500 euros ($567) will be imposed for breaking the restrictions, and anyone who refuses to cooperate with vaccination status checks could be fined 1,450 euros.
The amount of COVID-19 patients is overwhelming hospitals and intensive care units across the country.
Starting Feb. 1, vaccination will become mandatory for all Austrian citizens.
“Despite months of work on persuasion, we have not succeeded in convincing enough people to get vaccinated… Increasing the vaccination rate durably is the only way of getting out of this vicious circle,” Schallenberg said on Friday.
To date, only 64% of the population has been fully vaccinated. A number that ranges below the European average, said the (ECDC).
The government has pointed the finger of blame at the “political forces in this country vehemently opposing vaccination… attacking our health system”.
The decision raises questions about how far states can take emergency powers. However, the European Court of Human Rights has supported mandatory vaccination in the past,
Thus, Austria’s bold decision does not necessarily violate any human rights.