Austria will quarantine millions of people who are not fully vaccinated against him coronavirus starting Monday to cope with an increase in infections, which have reached record levels, the chancellor said on Sunday Alexander Schallenberg.
“We must increase the rate of vaccination. It is embarrassingly low, “Schallenberg told a press conference announcing the new measure after a video call with the governors of Austria’s nine provinces.
About 65% of the population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, one of the lowest rates in Western Europe.
Europe is once again the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic, prompting some governments to consider re-imposing the unpopular lockdowns. Austria has one of the highest infection rates on the continent, with a seven-day incidence of 815 per 100,000 inhabitants.
“We do not take this measure lightly, but it is necessary,” said the chancellor at the press conference in which he announced the new measure, according to which the unvaccinated can only leave their homes for a limited number of reasons, such as go to work or buy basic products.
Many Austrians are skeptical of vaccines, a view fostered by the Freedom Party far-right, the third largest in parliament.
Monday’s measures will expand those introduced a week ago, which prohibit the unvaccinated from accessing places such as restaurants, hotels and theaters.
While the Netherlands tackles its surge in cases by imposing a partial closure that applies to all, the Austrian government, led by the conservatives, wants to avoid imposing further restrictions on those who are fully vaccinated.
“Actually, we have told a third of the population: you will not leave your apartment anymore except for certain reasons. This is a massive reduction in contacts between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated,” Schallenberg said.
In Germany, the federal government and the leaders of the 16 federal states will meet next week to discuss the toughening of the measures. Germany has already classified Austria as a high-risk area, which means that people arriving from there have to go into quarantine.