Covid: Austria 1st EU country to reimpose full lockdown, others may follow

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Veinna | Barely a week after imposing a lockdown on the unvaccinated, Austria on Friday announced a full national Covid-19 lockdown starting next week.

Austria became the first country in the European Union to take such a measure in the face of the Covid-19 resurgence. Besides, it has also made vaccination mandatory from February 1, Euronews reported.

The new measures announced by Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg on Friday morning will come into effect initially for 10 days starting Monday. Most stores will close, and cultural events will be cancelled.

“We have to look reality in the face,” Schallenberg was quoted as saying at a news conference.

“We do not want a fifth wave. Nor do we want a sixth or seventh wave,” the Chancellor said, as reported by public broadcaster ORF.

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After 10 days, the effects will be assessed and if Covid cases don’t drop sufficiently, the lockdown can be extended to a maximum of 20 days.

However, according to Austria’s Health Minister, schools would remain open for those who need to go there, but all parents have been asked to keep their children at home if possible.

The lockdown comes as Covid infections soared in Austria in recent weeks. Daily case numbers have trebled in November, touching over 15,000 on Thursday.

According to the latest figures, the incidence rate was 990.7 cases per 100,000 people in the past week, and Health Minister Wolfgang Mackstein said imposing a lockdown was the “last resort”.

The country’s per capita infection rate is also the highest so far this year. Hospitals have been overwhelmed with many new Covid patients, and deaths have been rising again, the report said.

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Last Monday, Vienna had announced a nationwide lockdown for about two million unvaccinated people. Under this, people aged 12 years and older were banned from going outside except for essential activities such as work, attending classes, essential shopping, or going for a walk.

The country has 65 per cent people fully vaccinated against Covid-19 — one of the lowest rates in Western Europe.

Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) had warned that as Covid cases continue to mount in Europe and Central Asia, the regions are likely to see about 500,000 additional deaths before February 1.

Hans Kluge, WHO’s European Regional Director, attributed the increased risk to low mask use, vaccine hesitancy and spread of the more transmissible Delta variant.

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Many other European countries are also planning to reimpose restrictions in the wake of a steep rise in the number of cases, the BBC reported.

Slovakia Prime Minister Eduard Heger has announced what he called a lockdown for the unvaccinated starting Monday. The country had reported a record 8,342 cases on Wednesday.

The Czech government is also limiting access to a variety of services.

The Netherlands introduced a partial lockdown last weekend. German leaders have also agreed to introduce restrictions for unvaccinated people in areas with high Covid hospital admissions that would affect 12 of Germany’s 16 states, the report said.

Daily infections had hit a new German record of 52,826 on Wednesday.

IANS

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