Austria has become the first country to force the unvaccinated to remain locked in their homes with few exceptions. The recent lockdowns, which went into effect on Monday, November 15 were announced in Vienna by Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg.
The lockdowns for unvaccinated persons are quite restrictive. Citizens will not be allowed to go to closed premises such as restaurants, gyms or cinemas. They will also not be able to attend any events, even if they are outdoors, such as soccer matches or concerts. The only thing that the unvaccinated will be able to do is to go to work, take walks to get some fresh air, do basic shopping or go to get vaccinated. If they do not comply with the confinement order, they risk paying a costly fine of $1,660.
“It is happening. Austria has announced they will have a lockdown for the unvaccinated,” tweeted Swedish journalist, Peter Imanuelsen, who has been closely following news related to Covid-19 health restrictions around the world. “They will have police out on the streets checking peoples papers to see if their medical status allows them to be outside. Imagine telling someone this 1 year ago.”
Videos of citizens in Austria demonstrating against the recent lockdown mandate went viral. Also, various news agencies, such as Europa Press or AFP, posted images of the demonstrations against the health restriction. However, apart from the agencies, few international media outlets covered the protests or mentioned them in their articles, so they have gone virtually unnoticed.
Chancellor Schallenberg explained to Oe1 radio that the Austrian government did not take “this step lightly and I don’t think it should be talked down”. According to him, the order “is a dramatic step— about 2 million people in this country are affected. What we are trying is precisely to reduce contact between the unvaccinated and vaccinated to a minimum, and also contact between the unvaccinated.”
The Alpine country, which has a population of 8.9 million, has seen a rise in coronavirus cases in recent weeks. On Sunday, 11,552 new cases were reported, an increase of nearly 3,000 cases from last week when the average was 8,554 new infections per day. Deaths also rose slightly, with 17 deaths recorded on Sunday to reach 11,706 deaths from Covid-19.
According to the AP, “the seven-day infection rate stands at 775.5 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants. In comparison, the rate is at 289 in neighboring Germany, which has already also sounded the alarm over the rising numbers.” Moreover, according to Chancellor Schallenberg, there is a big difference in the infection rate between unvaccinated and vaccinated: 1,700 for the unvaccinated versus 383 for those who are vaccinated.
The opposition accused the new confinement measure of violating the individual freedoms of Austrian citizens. Freedom Party leader Herbert Kickl said he will use “all parliamentary and legal means we have available” to fight the government health restrictions explaining that “two million people are being practically imprisoned without having done anything wrong.”
Austria, an example for the whole of Europe
Austria could set an example for other European countries that are considering punishing unvaccinated citizens. In fact, neighboring Germany has already announced restrictions on leisure activities for unvaccinated persons. A negative test for coronavirus will no longer be sufficient to enter restaurants, for example. If you want to enter a closed establishment, Germans will have to present a complete vaccination schedule.
To attend work, unvaccinated persons or those who have not had the virus recently must present a negative Covid-19 test performed 24 hours before.
Restrictive health measures are gaining momentum across Europe. Last Friday, November 12, the Kingdom of the Netherlands announced a three-week containment in response to the increase in cases. Thousands of citizens took to the streets to demonstrate against the Dutch government’s decision.