Today’s Coronavirus News: Austria Orders Nationwide Lockdown for Unvaccinated As COVID-19 Rises in Europe

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world on Sunday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

8:22 am: This exclusively Canadian conspiracy theory group was on the brink of obscurity. Then came the vaccine mandates.

Some anti-vaccines, feeling pushed to the margins by government mandates, have found comfort in conspiracy movements, bolstering their numbers.

Read the full story of Alex McKeen from Star.

8:20 am: At the main hospital in the Romanian capital, the morgue ran out of room for the dead in recent days, and doctors in Bulgaria suspended routine surgeries to cater for a surge in COVID-19 patients. In the Serbian capital, the cemetery now operates an extra day during the week to bury all arriving bodies.

Over the past two months, a stubborn wave of virus infections has ruthlessly swept through several countries in Central and Eastern Europe, where vaccination rates are much lower than elsewhere on the continent. As medical workers advocated for strict restrictions or even closures, leaders let the virus spread unhindered for weeks.

“I don’t believe in measurements. I don’t believe in the same measures that existed before vaccines, ”Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said last month as the Balkan nation suffered some of its worst daily death toll from the pandemic. “Why do we have vaccines then?”

A World Health Organization official stated earlier this month that Europe is once again at the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. While several Western European countries are experiencing spikes in infections, it is the Eastern nations that are causing deaths. Romania, Bulgaria and the Balkan states recorded some of the highest per capita death rates in the world in the first week of November, according to the WHO.

Experts say clumsy vaccination campaigns and poorly managed and underfunded health systems set the stage for the latest outbreaks, which accelerated as leaders wavered. Some are acting now, but many doctors say it took too long and is still not enough.

Many governments in the region will be facing elections soon, and that no doubt made them reluctant to force people to get vaccinated or impose unpopular shutdowns even in former communist nations that once carried out mandatory inoculations without hesitation or where leaders they were quick to introduce closures earlier in the pandemic.

8:18 am: The Austrian government ordered a nationwide lockdown for unvaccinated people starting at midnight on Sunday to curb the rapid spread of the coronavirus in the country.

The measure prohibits unvaccinated people over the age of 12 from leaving their homes, except for basic activities like working, shopping, going for a walk or getting vaccinated.

Authorities are concerned that hospital staff can no longer handle the growing influx of COVID-19 patients.

“It is our job as the Austrian government to protect the people,” Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg told reporters in Vienna on Sunday. “Therefore, we decided that from Monday … there will be a lockdown for the unvaccinated.”

The closure affects some 2 million people in the Alpine country of 8.9 million people, the APA news agency reported. It does not apply to children under the age of 12 because they cannot yet be officially vaccinated.

The shutdown will initially last 10 days and police have been asked to check people outside to make sure they are vaccinated, Schallenberg said.

Austria has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe: only about 65% of the total population is fully vaccinated. In recent weeks, the country has faced a worrying trend of infections. The country reported 11,552 new cases on Sunday; A week ago there were 8,554 new infections.

The seven-day infection rate is 775.5 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants. By comparison, the rate is 289 in neighboring Germany, which has already sounded the alarm over rising numbers.

8:15 am: Cases in the U.S. are trending upward, with new infections in the week ending Friday the highest in more than a month, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. Meanwhile, nearly 10 million doses of vaccines were administered in the past week, the most since late May.

8:15 am: China reiterated the need to aggressively quell domestic Covid-19 infections and limit severe cases. The nation’s strict measures have not hampered its economy, Xinhua said, citing Liang Wannian, China’s covid czar.

8:15 am: Australia could begin vaccinating children ages 5 to 11 in January, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. Austria is prepared to impose nationwide restrictions on unvaccinated people on Monday to prevent a collapse of its health care system, the APA reported, citing a government draft. German leaders made urgent calls for greater acceptance of the vaccine and put troops on hold to help launch the booster vaccines.

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