Austria lifts lockdown on unjabbed for Christmas and New Year’s Eve

Unvaccinated Austrians will be allowed to socialise with up to 10 people over the festive season

Francois Murphy
Friday 17 December 2021 11:52
Comments
<p>A visitor walks across the Christmas Market in Vienna, Austria, on 13 December 2021</p>

A visitor walks across the Christmas Market in Vienna, Austria, on 13 December 2021

Austria is going to pause its lockdown on the unvaccinated over Christmas and New Year’s Eve thanks to a drop in Covid-19 cases.

While Austrians who have not been fully jabbed are barred from meeting more than one person at a time from another household, they will be granted an exception to join gatherings of up to 10 people between 24 and 26 December, and on New Year’s Eve.

“Christmas should show us once again how important contact with our loved ones is and how precious time together is,” Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein said on Thursday.

Austria last month imposed restrictions on the unvaccinated, then followed this up days later with a full lockdown - its fourth of the pandemic - as infections hit record levels. There have been repeated street protests against the decision.

With cases plummeting since, the government had eased the full lockdown last weekend but kept curbs on the unjabbed and plans to make inoculation compulsory as of February.

Under the lockdown, which started on 22 November people were allowed to leave their homes only for specific reasons, including buying groceries, going to the doctor or exercising. Day care centers and schools remained open for those who need them, but parents were asked to keep children at home if possible.

“We have in recent weeks gained an advantage that we want to use. We want to use it to take a moment to pause over Christmas to remember what is really important,” Mr Mueckstein told reporters.

Early closing times for the hospitality sector will be lifted for New Year’s Eve, he added.

Despite the seasonal relaxation, the Austrian government like others around the world is bracing for an explosion of infections from the more contagious Omicron variant. It has registered 75 Omicron cases so far.

Mr Mueckstein declined to say whether Austria will impose another full lockdown in January because of Omicron, but said the country was two to three weeks behind Denmark and Britain where the situation was worrying.

“I cannot and will not rule anything out for January,” he said.

Austria has a relatively low vaccination rate for Western Europe with just 69.4 per cent of the population fully vaccinated.

Reuters

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in