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Austria to commence full lockdown as Covid cases increase

Austria, a Western European country, will enter a fourth national lockdown on Monday as Covid-19 cases continue to surge, making it the first country in the region to impose stringent measures this fall.

Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said it would last a maximum of 20 days and there would be a legal requirement to get vaccinated from February 1, 2022.

This is in response to record case numbers and one of the lowest vaccination levels in Western Europe.

Many other European countries are imposing restrictions as cases rise.

“We don’t want a fifth wave,” Schallenberg said after meeting the governors of Austria’s nine provinces at a resort in the west of the country.

For a long time, there had been a consensus over avoiding mandatory vaccinations, the chancellor said.

However, too many people had been incited not to get the jab, because of “too many political forces, flimsy vaccination opponents and fake news”, he added.

Read also: African leaders to brainstorm on economic future of continent post COVID-19

The measures are yet to be finalised.

Latest figures show an incidence rate of 990.7 cases per 100,000 people in the past week, and Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein said imposing a lockdown was a “last resort”. A record 15,809 cases were reported in the past 24 hours, in a population of under nine million.

Under the measures, Austrians will be asked to work from home, non-essential shops will close, and schools will remain open for children who require face-to-face learning. They will continue until 12 December, but will be reassessed after 10 days.

Germany has seen several days of record infections this week, and Jens Spahn, the Health Minister has spoken of “a national emergency that requires a combined national effort.”

German leaders have already agreed to introduce restrictions for unvaccinated people in areas with high hospital admissions. And parliament has backed requirements for people to show Covid passes on buses and trains, and in workplaces.

In Bavaria, which borders Austria, state premier Markus Söder has gone further, declaring a “de facto lockdown for the unvaccinated”. Bars and clubs will close for three weeks and all Christmas markets have been cancelled. Where weekly incidence rates top 1,000 per 100,000 people – restaurants, hotels, sport and culture will also close.

Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger has already announced that a “lockdown for the unvaccinated” will start on Monday, and the Czech government is also limiting access to a variety of services. The Netherlands introduced a partial lockdown last weekend.

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