Unvaccinated individuals in Austria will continue to stay in lockdown even after wider coronavirus restrictions are lifted for the general public on Sunday, the country’s new Chancellor Karl Nehammer confirmed a day after taking office.
Austria’s two-week lockdown aimed to counter a surge in daily Covid-19 infections to record levels, with restaurants, bars, theatres, museums and non-essential shops shut to all but take-away business. Hotels are closed to tourists.
A week before that move, people not fully vaccinated against coronavirus had been placed under lockdown barring them from roughly the same places that are now shut, and allowed to leave home only for limited reasons such as going to work.
"The lockdown for the unvaccinated is staying," Nehammer told a news conference on Tuesday, while confirming that the wider curbs would be lifted on Sunday as planned.
However, details still need to be ironed out at a meeting on Wednesday between the government and the influential governors of Austria‘s nine provinces.
"For all the unvaccinated who are suffering from the fact they are staying in lockdown, there is a clear offer: you can come out of it if you seize the chance to get vaccinated," Nehammer said, adding that his aim was to encourage as many as possible to get their first dose of the vaccine.
Last month, Austria became the first European country – and one of the first in the world – to impose compulsory Covid-19 vaccinations, beginning in February next year.
The country has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe, with just under 68 per cent of the population being fully protected against Covid-19.
Many Austrians are sceptical about vaccines, a view encouraged by the far-right Freedom Party, the third biggest in parliament.
Several unvaccinated Austrians told The Independent last month they thought the original, targeted lockdown was “discriminatory.”
According to the latest statistics, Covid-19 cases are decreasing in Austria, with 7,245 new infections reported on average each day. That’s 51 per cent of the peak when the highest daily average was reported on November 24.
There have been about 1.2 million infections and 12,844 coronavirus-related deaths in the country since the pandemic began.
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