Europe, Latest on coronavirus outbreak

Austria begins 20-day lockdown as COVID-19 cases surge

Decision comes despite protests against new restrictions aimed at curbing infections

Aşkın Kıyağan   | 22.11.2021
Austria begins 20-day lockdown as COVID-19 cases surge


Despite protests against restrictions, Austria on Monday implemented a 20-day national lockdown to stem a surge in coronavirus cases.

Thousands of Austrians took to the streets over the weekend against a new lockdown, and the government's plans to make COVID-19 vaccination compulsory from next year.

The new restrictions require everyone to stay at home except for essential services such as going to markets, pharmacies or visiting a doctor.

All hospitality venues – pubs, restaurants, cafes and hotels – and close contact services, e.g. hairdressers and beauty salons are closed.

Schools and kindergartens remain open, but it has been recommended that children stay at home whenever possible.

Public servants will work from home, and the private sector has also been encouraged to work remotely.

All cultural institutions, museums, libraries, theatres, and cinemas have also been shut and events cancelled.

Face masks are mandatory in all shops and customer service areas, on public transport, as well as in healthcare facilities and civic office buildings.

Earlier, a lockdown was imposed in Austria for the unvaccinated only, with fines to those caught breaking the rules. But cases continued to rise.

In a statement on Sunday, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said due to the high number of infections, a lockdown was “unfortunately inevitable for everyone.”

“Now it is important to reduce the number of contacts, to switch to the home office where possible and to have the vaccination. This is the only way we can fight the pandemic together,” he added.

In a previous press release, he said a sustainable increase in the vaccination rate is the only way to finally get out of the “vicious circle of virus waves and lockdown discussions.”

“We have therefore come to the very difficult decision to initiate a nationwide compulsory vaccination very quickly. This will apply from February 1st next year,” he said.

With 13,806 new COVID-19 infections and 27 related deaths in the past 24 hours, the overall caseload in the European country reached 1.07 million including 12,042 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Nearly 66% of Austria's population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but many Austrians are said to be skeptical about vaccines. Hospital care units have warned they are reaching maximum capacity.

*Writing by Rabia Iclal Turan

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