What Austria's Lockdown for Those Unvaccinated Against COVID Really Means

Austria has implemented a nationwide COVID lockdown for unvaccinated people in the country that is expected to last for at least 10 days.

It comes as the country deals with a record-breaking wave of cases with more than 10,000 people a day being infected over the weekend.

With the country's population taken into account this translates to around 850 cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days, according to Austria's COVID dashboard. The United Kingdom, by comparison, had 354 cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days.

Austria's severe COVID wave is coupled with what the country's chancellor, Alexander Schallenberg, has called a "shamefully low" vaccination rate with 63 percent of people there fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data.

That's actually higher than the U.S.'s vaccination rate of 58 percent, but lower than many other countries in western Europe. Germany and the U.K. both have 67 percent of their populations fully vaccinated, while Spain and Portugal are at 80 percent and 88 percent. respectively.

It's led Austria to declare a fresh COVID lockdown that only applies to people who are not fully vaccinated, as Schallenberg called for the country to raise its vaccination rate in a news conference on Sunday.

"We are not taking this step lightly but it is necessary," he said, according to Reuters.

The new measures mean that people aged 12 and over who aren't fully vaccinated against COVID will only be able to leave their homes for limited reasons, such as shopping for essentials, going to work, or going for a walk, Reuters added. Breaking the rules could result in a fine of up to $1,660.

Tighter Restrictions

Unvaccinated people in the country had already begun to have some restrictions placed on them, with the government announcing earlier this month that they would be barred from cafes, restaurants, hairdressers and ski lifts.

Austria is not the only European country grappling with new COVID restrictions. Last week, the Netherlands announced a three-week partial lockdown with the government ordering the early closure of restaurants and shops.

Some German states are implementing so-called '2G' restrictions, under which people will not be allowed to enter establishments like cinemas, bars and restaurants unless they are fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID in the past six months. Berlin, for example, implemented the 2G rule on Monday, as well as Saxony.

Austrian officials
Austrian government officials—with Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg in the middle—pictured at a press event on November 14 in Vienna in which the new rules were announced. Austria is currently experiencing a record COVID case wave. Georg Hochmuth/APA / AFP / Getty