Amidst rising cases of COVID-19 in Europe, Austria has moved first to impose a lockdown to contain the spread of infection. Unlike the last time around, this lockdown is only applicable to unvaccinated individuals, Reuters reported.
Towards the end of last week, the World Health Organization tweeted an update about the COVID cases in the region.
"Almost 2 million cases of #COVID19 were reported in Europe last week, the most in a single week in that region since the pandemic started.— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) November 12, 2021
Almost 27,000 deaths were reported from Europe, more than half of all COVID-19 deaths globally last week"-@DrTedros
Reuters has reported that Austria has one of the highest infection rates on the continent and other countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic was considering imposing restrictions last week. While Germany is mooting a return to working from home, the Netherlands has asked businesses to close down early and stopped spectators from attending sporting events, Austria's lockdown is more targeted only towards the unvaccinated.
Even with 65 percent of adults vaccinated fully, Austria is considered to have one of the lowest vaccination coverage in western Europe. Many in Austria are skeptical about vaccines. Reuters reported that skepticism is encouraged by a political party in the country's parliament.
BBC reported at least six nations that have over 70 percent of adults who are fully vaccinated with Portugal occupying the top slot with 88 percent vaccination coverage. Germany that has a vaccination coverage of 67 percent has already termed 'Austria' as a high-risk region and requires returnees from the region to undergo quarantine.
The measure that is being implemented for 10 days for now starting today will allow unvaccinated people to leave home only for purposes of work or shopping for essential items. Earlier last week, Austria had already restricted unvaccinated individuals from visiting restaurants, hotels, and theatres, Reuters reported. The move is designed to reduce contact between the vaccinated and unvaccinated, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg told the media, affecting roughly a third of its population.
The restrictions do not apply to children under 12 years of age or people who have recently recovered from COVID. Austria has previously implemented an official COVID pass to facilitate people's entry into certain establishments such as cafes, hairdressers, theatres, etc. and last week's move has already barred entry of unvaccinated people into these areas. To implement the lockdown, the police are likely to increase the number of checks it conducts in the public. Anyone breaching the lockdown can be fined up to €1,450 (US$ 1,660) Interior Minister, Karl Nehammer is reported to have said.
Apart from pointing out the difficulty in successfully implementing such a lockdown, opposers of the move had said that the restrictions will create a group of second-class citizens, BBC reported. The weekend also saw protests from individuals who did want to be vaccinated. Vaccine mandates have even been opposed in the U.S.
Singapore that has fully vaccinated 85 percent of its population and even delivered a booster dose to 20 percent has now decreed that starting December 8, those voluntarily opting out of its vaccination program will have to foot their own medical bills, if they fall ill due to COVID.