A lockdown for citizens who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19 enters into force in Austria today, and even stricter restrictions are not ruled out if the situation continues to worsen.
Vaccination is now mandatory for health workers, and from today children aged 5 to 11 can be vaccinated.
At the same time in Germany, the controversy over the measures to be taken under the weight of the alarming increase in cases is escalating.
The number of cases is higher than ever (…). We have a vicious circle of the pandemic, which must be broken. The government was forced to take a decisive, difficult step.
Austria: When will the unvaccinated be able to move?
Following the decision taken yesterday by Parliament's main committee and the consultation of Chancellor Alexander Salenberg with the Prime Ministers of the states, from today until November 24, the unvaccinated will be able to travel only to go to work, to buy items to exercise, to get medical assistance or - of course - to be vaccinated.
Those who are not vaccinated are also excluded from retail stores. They were already excluded from restaurants, gyms and hairdressers. Restrictions apply to anyone over the age of 12. For students aged 12-15, however, there is the so-called "Passo-Ninja", a certificate of vaccination or illness and recovery. The Austrian News Agency (APA) estimates that the measures will affect the daily lives of about two million people in the country.
"The number of cases is higher than ever (…). We have a vicious circle of the pandemic, which must be broken. The government was forced to take a decisive, difficult step. We are not taking this step lightly, but the numbers speak for themselves."
He defended the decision to include students over the age of 15 in the lockdown, noting that young people transmit the new coronavirus, although they usually do not have serious symptoms. Schools, however, will continue to operate normally, with the obligation to perform three diagnostic tests per week, one of which must be molecular - even for vaccinated and sick people.
Chancellor Salenberg also stressed that the monitoring of the implementation of the measures is of particular importance, assuring that "it will be done with great consistency". Whoever violates the new regulations, risks a fine of 500 euros, while for anyone who refuses control, the fine will amount to 1,450 euros. He left open the possibility not only of renewing the measure after November 24, but also of imposing even stricter restrictions. Additional measures are considered likely to be taken in the states of Upper Austria and Salzburg, where the situation is particularly dire.
Health Minister Wolfgang Muckstein even spoke of a possible curfew, which would apply to both vaccinated and sick people at night, as well as restrictions on events where the public does not have pre-arranged seats.
Alexander Salenberg repeatedly stressed that the measures focus on the unvaccinated, as "the only way out of the vicious circle of the pandemic is vaccination." He described the vaccination rate in Austria as "shamefully low" (67%).
The Minister of Health, however, noted that since the announcement of the measure for access to the workplace only with a certificate of vaccination or illness or with a negative test, the number of vaccinations has quadrupled.
Political controversy in Germany
The Austrian government's decisions have intensified political controversy in Germany as well, where the general lockdown is still rejected by the government but remains a viable option for individual regions.
Last night, in a political debate on Bild television, representatives of the Christian Democratic Party (CDU), the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Liberals (FDP) avoided ruling out the possibility. SPD Health spokesman Karl Lauterbach called for restrictions on the unvaccinated and called for the cancellation of major events, such as Carnival and Christmas shopping.
"Any event that takes place, he clarified, should only concern vaccinated and sick people, who, however, will have been additionally tested. He warned that "in a few days the Intensive Care Units will be full". On the CDU side, Chancellor of the Exchequer Helge Brown agreed to the cancellation of Christmas shopping in areas with an outbreak of the pandemic: "it is not possible to continue one's social life under these conditions," he said. FDP vice-president Wolfgang Kubiki expressed a different view, stressing that "if vaccinated people are locked in, we will send the wrong message: that vaccination has no effect."
Additional measures in Berlin
From today, however, the social life of the unvaccinated is significantly reduced in Berlin, as - in the first phase until November 28 - they will not have access to restaurants, sports and art events, theaters, cinemas, museums, gyms, hairdressers and beauty salons. but also in the zoos and botanical gardens of the capital. Berlin's famous nightclubs were already operating under this regulation.
In addition, although the rule does not apply to hotels, it will apply to tourists who want to use tour buses and tourist boats on the River Spree. The main reason for the decision of the local Senate is the rapid increase in cases of the new coronavirus, but also the significant burden on the city's hospitals. Charité University Hospital announced last week that it was canceling all regular surgeries due to system overload.
Similar restrictions for the unvaccinated have been in place in Saxony since last week, with Chancellor Angela Merkel and state prime ministers meeting on Thursday in a new effort to coordinate and enforce uniform regulations.