Austria lockdown for the unvaccinated is ‘unenforceable’

Austria imposed a coronavirus lockdown that only applies to the unvaccinated yesterday on Monday, but there was scepticism over whether police would be able to enforce the rules. 

Austria is the first country in Europe to put those who refused to be vaccinated under lockdown, as it struggles to contain soaring infection rates.

Under the new restrictions, the unvaccinated are only permitted to leave their homes for essential reasons, while the fully jabbed are free to move around as normal.

The rules are enforced by police spot checks, but a large number of exemptions mean it is easy for the unvaccinated to dodge detection.

Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said at the weekend that police would check the vaccination status of all members of the public they interact with.

Unvaccinated people are allowed to leave their homes for essential shopping, to go to work, attend religious services, meet up with partners or simply to take exercise.

“My aim is very clear: to get the unvaccinated to get vaccinated, not to lock up the unvaccinated,” said Alexander Schallenberg, the Austrian chancellor.

Austrian police check a motorist's vaccination pass

Credit: ERWIN SCHERIAU
/AFP

A dramatic surge in people coming forward for the vaccine over the past week suggested the new measures are having an effect.

More than 462,000 came forward for jabs, the highest total since July. While the majority were booster shots, the figures include more than 128,000 first jabs.

Austria is currently battling one of the highest infection rates in Europe, with a 7-day incidence per 100,000 people of 890 — compared to 385 in the UK.

The country has a large and vocal anti-vaxxer movement, and it is far behind most of western Europe when it comes to vaccinations, with only 65 per cent fully jabbed.

There were protests against the new measures over the weekend, and the far-Right Freedom party (FPÖ) has vowed to oppose them by “all parliamentary and legal means we have available”.

The FPÖ is planning a rally on Saturday, but its campaign suffered a blow on Monday with the news its leader, Herbery Kickl, is infected with the virus and self-isolating for 14 days.

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