Austria to Place Unvaccinated Under Lockdown As Europe Fights COVID Surge

Austria is planning a lockdown for those who have not received a COVID vaccine, the country's Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg has said.

Before the move is finalized, there will be a virtual conference among the country's governors over the weekend, followed by a meeting of Austria's parliament, the National Council, on Sunday, the Austria Press Agency reported.

News outlet OE.24 reported that the lockdown, which would affect around a third of the population, could come into effect on Wednesday, November 17.

Upper Austria province, the country's worst-affected region, could see a lockdown of the unvaccinated as early as Monday, The Associated Press reported, pending "a legal green light from the federal government," Governor Thomas Stelzer said on Thursday.

The drastic measures come as Austria becomes the latest European country to grapple with a spike in COVID cases, after a new record weekly high of 67,148 new cases over the past seven days, according to Johns Hopkins University figures.

There were 760.6 reported new cases per 100,000 residents over the previous seven days, three times that of neighboring Germany, whose government is also concerned about record numbers. In the Netherlands, a partial lockdown will see indoor venues close early and sporting events held without spectators, Reuters reported.

Schallenberg has rejected the idea of a lockdown for everyone, saying he did not want the two-thirds of vaccinated Austrians to be forced to face the same lockdown as the unvaccinated, although other restrictions may apply to everyone.

During a visit to Bregenz in the west of the country on Thursday, he said: "I don't see why two-thirds should lose their freedom because one-third is dithering. For me, it is clear that there should be no lockdown for the vaccinated out of solidarity for the unvaccinated."

He also warned that the unvaccinated face an "uncomfortable" winter and Christmas, and lamented that the proportion of the population that was vaccinated—about 65 percent—was "shamefully low."

Measures were put in place this week to curb COVID and encourage vaccinations.

From Monday, unvaccinated people who had not recovered from an infection, were barred from restaurants, hotels, hairdressing salons and large public events.

In October, Schallenberg announced lockdown restrictions for the unvaccinated should be put in place once coronavirus patients take up 30 percent of ICU beds. COVID patients currently take up around a fifth of ICU beds, according to Reuters, with the numbers rising.

Authorities are also looking at implementing a vaccine mandate for some professional groups. "We can break this wave together," Schallenberg said.

Newsweek has contacted the National Council for comment.

Student vaccinated in Vienna
A student is vaccinated against the coronavirus (Covid-19) at a vocational school in Vienna on September 14, 2021. Austria is set to enforce a lockdown for those not vaccinated against COVID. ALEX HALADA/Getty