The Austrian government ordered a nationwide lockdown for unvaccinated people starting at midnight Sunday to slow the fast spread of the coronavirus in the country. The move prohibits unvaccinated individuals older than 12 from leaving their homes except for basic activities such as working, grocery shopping, going for a walk—or getting vaccinated. Authorities are concerned about rising deaths and the possibility that hospital staff will no longer be able to handle the growing influx of COVID-19 patients, the AP reports. Unvaccinated people can be fined up to $1,660 US if they do not adhere to the restrictions.
"It's our job as the government of Austria to protect the people," Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg told reporters in Vienna on Sunday. "Therefore we decided that starting Monday ... there will be a lockdown for the unvaccinated." The lockdown affects about 2 million people in the Alpine country of 8.9 million people. It exempts children under age 12 because they cannot yet officially get vaccinated. The lockdown will initially last 10 days. Police have been asked to check people outside to make sure they are vaccinated, Schallenberg said, adding that additional officers would go on patrol to control the lockdown.
Austria has one of the lowest vaccination rates in western Europe: only around 65% of the total population is fully vaccinated. In recent weeks, the country has faced a worrying trend in infections. The country reported 11,552 new cases on Sunday; a week ago there were 8,554. The seven-day infection rate stands at 775.5 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Schallenberg pointed out that while the seven-day infection rate for vaccinated people has been falling in recent days, the same rate is rising quickly for the unvaccinated. He also urged vaccinated Austrians to get the booster shot, saying that otherwise, "we will never get out of this vicious circle."
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