Austria enters hard-to-enforce COVID-19 lockdown for the unvaccinated
Austria entered a lockdown for people not vaccinated against the coronavirus on Monday (November 15), with reinforced police checks to ensure compliance, though city streets appeared as busy as usual.
The conservative-led government says that around two million people in the country of roughly nine million are now only allowed to leave their homes for a limited number of reasons like travelling to work or shopping for essentials.
“I think it is a good idea because most people who want to vaccinate should be free and enjoy life, go to work and do whatever they want. If someone doesn’t want to get vaccinated then they should be responsible, take responsibility and stay at home,” said Israeli tourist Yehiav Amiel.
“We feel much safer when I know that people walking around are vaccinated,” he added.
The aim of the Austrian government is to counter a surge in infections to record levels fuelled by a full vaccination rate of only around 65% of the population, one of the lowest in western Europe.
Austria is among the hardest-hit by Europe’s fourth wave of infections, but there has been an uptick in first vaccinations since the unvaccinated were barred from places including restaurants, cafes, theatres and ski lifts last week.
“Vaccinations should be mandatory. If a disease is capable of paralysing a country then the necessary steps have to be taken,” said Helmut Zwach, while waiting with his wife Susanne in a long line to get his third jab.
Philipp Loos, a student in Vienna, was not sure what to think.
“I can not say whether it is right or wrong but we should definitely reconsider how we deal with this pandemic and we have to do something,” he said.
There are widespread doubts including among Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg’s conservatives and the police about whether this lockdown can be properly enforced.
It can be hard to verify, for example, whether an unvaccinated person is on their way to work, which is allowed, or going to shop for non-essential items, which is not.