Unvaccinated in Austria Go Under Lockdown, Face $1,660 Fine Per Violation

In what is being called a "dramatic" step, Austria has implemented a nationwide lockdown for its unvaccinated residents, the Associated Press reported.

The lockdown mandates that unvaccinated citizens over age 12 should not leave their homes unless they are doing essential activities or getting their COVID-19 vaccination. Basic activities include working, going to school and grocery shopping. The mandate also applies to people who recently recovered from the virus.

Police are able to fine those who violate the lockdown. If patrols find an unvaccinated person breaking the protocols of the lockdown, they can be fined up to 1,450 euros, or $1,660.

"We really didn't take this step lightly and I don't think it should be talked down," Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said in a radio interview. "My aim is very clearly to get the unvaccinated to get themselves vaccinated and not to lock down the vaccinated. In the long term, the way out of this vicious circle we are in—and it is a vicious circle, we are stumbling from wave to lockdown, and that can't carry on ad infinitum—is only vaccination."

Around 65 percent out of Austria's population of 8.9 million are fully vaccinated. The nation also recorded 849.2 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past week.

There is a possibility that other measures could be introduced to curb infection rates. Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein told Austrian reporters that further measures will be discussed in the coming days.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Austria Police
Austria became the first EU country on November 15 to impose a lockdown on the unvaccinated and began inoculating children as young as 5 as COVID-19 strengthens its grip on the continent. Unvaccinated people in Austria are only allowed to leave their homes for very specific reasons. Above, an Austrian police officer checks a driver's digital vaccination certificate on a smartphone during a traffic control in Graz, Austria, on November 15, 2021. Photo by Erwin Scheriau/APA/AFP via Getty Images

The move took effect at midnight.

The lockdown is initially being imposed until November 24. It doesn't apply to children under 12 because they cannot yet officially get vaccinated—though the capital, Vienna, on Monday opened up vaccinations for under-12s as part of a pilot project, and reported high demand.

"This a dramatic step—about 2 million people in this country are affected....What we are trying is precisely to reduce contact between the unvaccinated and vaccinated to a minimum, and also contact between the unvaccinated," said Schallenberg.

Schallenberg also described the vaccination rate as "shamefully low." All students at schools, whether vaccinated or not, are now required to take three tests per week, at least one of them a PCR test.

Austria's situation is far worse than that of neighboring Germany, where case rates on Monday hit the latest in a string of records, with 303 new cases per 100,000 residents over seven days.

Berlin on Monday became the latest of several German states to limit access to restaurants, cinemas, museums and concerts to people who have been vaccinated or recently recovered—shutting out unvaccinated people who have tested negative. Under-18s are exempted.

On Thursday, the German parliament is due to vote on a new legal framework for coronavirus restrictions drawn up by the parties that are expected to form the country's next government. Those plans are reportedly being beefed up to allow tougher contact restrictions than originally envisioned.

Separately, the three parties—who hope to take office early next month—also appear set to introduce a vaccine mandate in some areas, a step officials so far have balked at.

"We will need compulsory vaccination...in nursing homes, in day care centers and so on," said the Greens' parliamentary group leader, Katrin Goering-Eckardt. "We will get that off the ground."

Germany has struggled to bring new momentum to its vaccination campaign, with just over two-thirds of the population fully vaccinated, and is trying to ramp up booster shots.

Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a new appeal on Saturday for holdouts to get vaccinated. "Think about it again," she said. The country's disease control center called last week for people to cancel or avoid large events.

To Germany's west, the Netherlands on Saturday night implemented a partial lockdown that is due to run for at least three weeks, forcing bars and restaurants to close at 8 p.m. In the northern city of Leeuwarden, hundreds of young people gathered in a central square, setting off fireworks and holding flares, before riot police moved in to push protesters out.

In Austria, the leader of the far-right opposition Freedom Party vowed to combat the new restrictions by "all parliamentary and legal means we have available." Herbert Kickl said in a statement that "2 million people are being practically imprisoned without having done anything wrong."

On Monday, Kickl announced on Facebook that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and must self-isolate for 14 days, so he won't be able to attend a protest in Vienna planned on Saturday.

One proposal on the table is limits on going out at night that would also apply to the vaccinated.

Schallenberg sounded a more cautious note. "Of course I don't rule out sharpening" the measures, he said, but he indicated that he doesn't expect restrictions on bars and the like at present.

Alexander Schallenberg
The Austrian government ordered a nationwide lockdown for unvaccinated people that started at midnight to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the country. Above, Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg addresses the media in the Federal Chancellery in Vienna on October 11, 2021. AP Photo/Lisa Leutner, File