Austrians who have not had a COVID-19 vaccine, around 25% of the population, will be placed into a fully-fledged lockdown from Monday (15 November). But according to experts, additional measures will soon be needed to combat the rise in infection rates.
The new measures were announced on Friday and approved by the Austrian parliament on Sunday evening.
The measures include a curfew for all persons who cannot prove that they have been vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19, except children under 12. The unvaccinated are only allowed to leave their home for groceries, work, or in exceptional circumstances.
They are banned from entering bars, cultural, social or sports events, and non-essential shops and services.
“The corona situation is serious in Austria,” Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said in a press conference. The new measures are necessary because Austria has an “embarrassingly low vaccination rate,” Schallenberg stressed.
COVID-19 infection rates have been increasing rapidly in recent days and are reaching an unprecedented level. If the trend continues, “additional measures are needed,” Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein has said.
According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, 63.4% of Austrians are fully vaccinated, compared to 67.1% in Germany and 64.8% across the EU.
The rise of infection numbers also led Germany to declare Austria a high-risk country on Friday. All non-vaccinated individuals will have to enter quarantine if they visit Germany.
Chancellor Schallenberg also announced that violations of the rules will be “resolutely penalised”, and Interior Minister Karl Nehammer added that the police will enforce the new measures at an “unprecedented degree.”
Consumers without a valid COVID certificate will be fined up to €500, and service and goods providers who do not live up to their obligations with up to €3,600.
However, experts are unconvinced and Austria’s Corona Commission stated that the measures will not lead to “noticeable effects”.
Herbert Kickl, leader of the far-right FPÖ, called for a mass demonstration against the new measures and announced that FPÖ lawyers would bring the issue to the courts.
Some regional states, most notably Vienna, announced additional, more rigid rules to combat the spread of the disease. To enter bars, clubs, cultural events, or cinemas, a PCR test is needed in addition to the proof of vaccination. Furthermore, the Vienna government announced the third vaccination would be available four months after receiving the second jab.
The measures have already led to an increase in weekly vaccinations. While the average vaccination per week was around 20,000 in October, they reached 60,000 over the last week.