Amid rising COVID-19 cases, Austria announced it would implement a full national lockdown. The country will also require COVID-19 vaccinations for all eligible citizens – the first such measure in Europe.
Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg announced the latest lockdown and compulsory COVID-19 vaccinations on Friday after meeting the governors of Austria's nine provinces.
"We don't want a fifth wave. We don't want a sixth and seventh wave," Schallenberg said at a press conference. "We have not succeeded in convincing enough people to get vaccinated. It hurts that such measures still have to be taken."
"We have not managed to get enough unvaccinated people to get vaccinated. The most recent measures have increased daily vaccinations but not enough. For a long time, it was consensus in the country that a vaccine mandate is not necessary, but we have to face reality," Schallenberg — who was named chancellor last month after the resignation of his predecessor Sebastian Kurz over corruption accusations — said.
"This is a dramatic step," Schallenberg continued. "In the long term, the way out of this vicious circle we are in — and it is a vicious circle, we are stumbling from wave to lockdown, and that can't carry on ad infinitum — is only vaccination."
Starting on Feb. 1, Austria will make vaccinations mandatory – the most stringent measure to attempt to control the coronavirus pandemic through vaccination in Europe and of all Western countries. According to Reuters, the other countries that have vaccine mandates for all eligible adult citizens are Indonesia, Micronesia, and Turkmenistan.
Of Austria's population of 9 million, 65% are fully vaccinated.
The national lockdown goes into effect Monday. The stay-at-home order will initially last for 10 days, but can be extended for a maximum of 20 days if cases don't diminish sufficiently.
"Austrians will be asked to work from home, non-essential shops will close, and schools will remain open for children who require face-to-face learning," the BBC reported.
Austria launched a lockdown for unvaccinated people last week, but expanded the order to everyone after cases spiked.
A record 15,145 cases were reported in Austria on Thursday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. In the past week, there were a record 88,315 cases. There were 55 reported COVID-19 deaths on Thursday and 302 deaths in the last week. The highest daily death toll during the pandemic in Austria was 218 on Dec. 17, 2020. The deadliest week was Dec. 13–Dec. 19, 2020, with 878 fatalities.
Austria is one of many European countries with surging COVID-19 cases. Germany experienced a record 68,366 coronavirus cases on Wednesday. The Czech Republic had a pandemic-high 22,585 cases on Wednesday. The Netherlands hit a record 23,641 cases on Thursday. Belgium had a record 32,708 cases on Nov. 3. As of yet, the record cases have not equated to record deaths.
Because of the latest COVID-19 wave sweeping Europe, countries have reimplemented coronavirus restrictions. Last week, the Netherlands established a partial three-week lockdown that closed down bars, restaurants, and supermarkets at 8 p.m.; sporting events will be played in empty stadiums. The government recommends no more than four visitors to one home.
On Wednesday, Belgium announced it would require employees to work from home four days a week into mid-December, Bloomberg reported.
Germany will implement restrictions for unvaccinated people. In areas with a hospitalization rate of more than three coronavirus patients per 100,000 people over the past seven days, only the vaccinated and those who have recovered from coronavirus will be permitted to access to public spaces like sporting events, cultural shows, and restaurants.
Even Sweden – which has pushed back against most COVID-19 restrictions – said it would introduce coronavirus vaccine passes next month for indoor events where more than 100 people attend.