Unvaccinated Austrians to Remain in Lockdown, Have Limits On Why They Can Leave Home

Austrians vaccinated against COVID-19 and those who have recently recovered from the virus will no longer be subject to a national lockdown come Sunday, Chancellor Karl Nehammer announced Wednesday. However, the lockdown will remain in place for the unvaccinated as the nation seeks to combat one of the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe.

Just 67.7 percent of Austrians are fully vaccinated. The country has seen pushback from tens of thousands of residents who staged protests in recent weeks against the lockdown and a vaccine mandate set to take effect in the coming months.

The current lockdown, which began November 22, permits people to leave their homes only for certain reasons like grocery shopping, going to medical appointments and exercising. Parents were asked to keep their children at home, but schools and day care centers did not close doors just in case they were needed.

Nehammer noted that while "it still takes a lot of convincing to get those who haven't even been vaccinated yet," the unvaccinated Austrians would be freed from the lingering restrictions if they got the vaccine.

"The lockdown for the unvaccinated continues. I also understand that the people who are affected by it feel aggrieved," Nehammer told reporters in Vienna. "At the same time, there is the offer of science, that by getting vaccinated these troubles can be quickly put aside and then common freedom can actually be lived together."

Those who are vaccinated or recently recovered from the virus will still be subject to some restrictions, which include wearing masks on public transportation and in public places, limits on the number of people attending cultural events and an 11 p.m. restaurant curfew.

Austrian Lockdown
Austrians vaccinated against COVID-19 and those who have recently recovered from the virus will no longer be subject to a national lockdown come Sunday, Chancellor Karl Nehammer announced Wednesday. Above, a person walks past a closed Christmas market in Vienna on November 30, 2021. Lisa Leutner/AP Photo

Stricter measures can be implemented independently by regions that are especially affected by the pandemic, Nehammer said.

The government announced last month that it would implement a vaccine mandate early next year and said Wednesday that details about the compulsory vaccinations will be presented later this week.

The country's seven-day infection rate declined by about half during the lockdown. It stood at 535.6 cases per 100,000 residents on Tuesday, down from more than 1,100 on the day the lockdown started.

Nehammer was sworn in Monday as Austria's third chancellor in two months, capping a round of upheaval triggered by the decision last week of Sebastian Kurz, the country's dominant political figure of recent years, to bow out of politics.

Nehammer, 49, has been Austria's interior minister since early 2020. He also is taking over as leader of the conservative Austrian People's Party, which Kurz led to election victories in 2017 and 2019.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Austrian Chancellor Announces Lockdown Changes
Just 67.7 percent of Austrians are fully vaccinated, and the country has seen pushback from tens of thousands of residents who staged protests in recent weeks against the lockdown and a vaccine mandate. Above, new Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer speaks at a news conference about his plans in Vienna on December 7, 2021. Lisa Leutner/AP Photo