Politics

Austria becomes  first European country to make vaccination compulsory as it heads into lockdown 



Austria will become the first European country to go back into full lockdown and the first to make Covid vaccination compulsory.

“This is not easy for us, but in view of the number of infections we have to take such measures,” Alexander Schallenberg, the Austrian chancellor, told a press conference on Friday, adding: “It hurts me to have to impose any restrictions.”

The country is currently facing one of the worst outbreaks of the virus in Europe. It recorded 15,145 new cases on Friday and has a seven-day incidence of 989 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. However, there is a large anti-vaxxer movement and only 65 per cent of Austrians are fully jabbed.

This week Austria placed the unvaccinated under lockdown while those who had had both jabs remained free to move around, but Mr Schallenberg said that had not been enough to bring down the infection rate.

The whole country will be put back under a hard lockdown from Monday.

“Despite months of persuasion, we haven’t been able to convince enough people to get vaccinated,” said Mr Schallenberg. “We are demanding a lot from the vaccinated people in this country, because the unvaccinated people have not shown solidarity.”

Restaurants, pubs, and all non-essential shops will be closed and people will be told to remain at home from Monday. Classroom teaching will be suspended and schools will revert  to distance learning.

The national lockdown is set to last three weeks but that will be reviewed after 10 days. Mr Schallenberg pledged there would be no more restrictions for the vaccinated after Dec 13.

The measures come after by the states of Upper Austria and Salzburg announced they would impose unilateral regional lockdowns on Thursday. 

From Feb 1 next year all Austrians will be obliged to have both jabs, Mr Schallenber announced. Those who refuse could face heavy fines.

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