Austria has announced a nationwide lockdown, travel restrictions, and forthcoming populationwide vaccine mandate—the first in the European Union.
Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg has said these extreme measures are regrettable but necessary to both contain a record surge in reported COVID-19 cases and encourage the one-third of Austrians who are unvaccinated to get the jab.
“There are far too many political parties in this country that have fought against the Constitution.” [vaccination]. “The consequences are overloaded intensive care stations, and immense human suffering,” Schallenberg reports from an English-language Austrian news website. The Local. We don’t always make this decision easily. No one likes to limit freedom.
Austria yesterday reported 15,000 new COVID-19 case, which is a record well beyond last year’s winter peak, 9,262 reported cases daily, according to Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering. Yesterday’s death count for COVID-19 was 55, almost half that of the winter peak.
Following an order that was made Monday, this latest lockdown prohibits unvaccinated Austrians to enter public spaces such as bars, restaurants and retail shops. The only exception was to be able to leave their home for business such as grocery shopping or medical appointments.
Schallenberg maintained that his goal was to “very clearly get the unvaccinated get themselves vaccinated” and not lock down those who were vaccinated.
However, according to The LocalWhile local authorities began to place additional requirements for vaccines and to lock down general areas earlier in the week, national politicians were open to harsher nation-wide policies.
Salzburg and Upper Austria enter another week of loxckdown.
Just waiting for the press conference to begin, it’s delayed but we should hear from Salzburg’s governor on details soon https://t.co/kFsTY63grn
— Catherine Edwards (@CJREdwards) November 18, 2021
Bars, restaurants, retail shops, as well as other public spaces such the famous Christmas markets, will be closed during this latest country lockdown. While essential businesses such as pharmacies and grocery stores will still be open, schools will close. Students will have to wear masks. The Local. If possible, students are encouraged to move to online learning.
It is now also forbidden to travel as a tourist.
While the government has yet to finalize legal and practical details regarding its nationwide vaccination mandate that it will impose in February, they are still working on them. It will be enforced by administrative fines, according to the country’s minister of health.
Many people criticize COVID-19’s interventions for the vaccinated as a disincentivizing reason to get vaccinated. If you have to use a mask to get the shot, why go for a shot that you are already reluctant about?
That criticism doesn’t neatly apply to Austria given that the country is now simply requiring people to be vaccinated—no incentives needed!
However, it is already drawing criticism from the right-wing Freedom Party. The party was critical of country’s past lockdowns, and will protest this weekend’s restrictions, according to Reuters.
Together, the general vaccine mandate as well as lockdown can be described as a more authoritarian pandemic response than any government official could provide without people being locked in their own homes. The approach can also be contradictory.
Austrian officials insist that vaccinations are the best way to prevent this and other waves. But they are insisting that all vaccinated persons have access to shelter within their homes.
It would only be possible to decrease overall COVID-19 transmission if unvaccinated people, who are still infectious, were prevented from spreading the virus to their non-protected counterparts. The earlier lockdown, which was still severe and targeted unvaccinated people, seemed to have accomplished this.
This is a very paternalistic reaction by the government. People who choose not to get vaccinated generally make a poor decision. However, it is mainly them and others who are not vaccinated that they put themselves at serious risk. It’s not like stopping all vehicles from moving to help people who don’t wear seatbelts.
According to the Associated Press, Austria’s general lockdown will last 10 days but could be extended up to 20 days. If necessary, the lockdown restrictions on unvaccinated persons could be extended.