Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg announced Friday the government will begin a nationwide lockdown Monday and mandate vaccinations for all, making it the first European nation to reimpose COVID-19 measures, as cases throughout the region surge.
At a news conference Friday, Schallenberg said Monday’s lockdown will be reevaluated after 10 days, but they will run a maximum of 20 days, ending automatically December 13. He also announced COVID-19 vaccinations will become mandatory beginning February 1.
The lockdown will include an all-day curfew for the entire country, though schools and kindergartens will remain open. People may leave their homes only for work, school and basic needs, which can include physical exercise or if there is a threat to their health or property.
Schallenberg told reporters substantially increasing vaccination rates “is our only way out of this vicious circle of virus waves and lockdown discussions once and for all. We don’t want a fifth wave, we don’t want a sixth and seventh wave.”
The chancellor said he understands that many people in the country are already vaccinated and also will be subject to the lockdown restrictions, which he blamed on “too many among us have shown a lack of solidarity.”
Despite months of persuasion, he said, the government had not succeeded in convincing enough people to get vaccinated. The latest figures from Europe’s Centers for Disease control show the 64.1% of Austria’s total population is fully vaccinated.
Schallenberg expressed anger at anti-vaccination campaigns that have spread misinformation about the vaccines or promote sham COVID-19 treatments.
“Personally,” he said, “I think it’s irresponsible by certain political forces to exploit this pandemic to divide society and not to put people’s health in the foreground but to endanger it.”
Other European countries also are tightening restrictions as cases surge across the continent.
The government of Hungary, which borders Austria to the east, announced Thursday it is mandating mask-wearing indoors again beginning Saturday.
Some information for this report came from the Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse.