BERLIN (AP) – The Austrian government has ordered a national blockade for unvaccinated people starting at midnight on Sunday to slow the rapid spread of the coronavirus in the country.
The move prohibits unvaccinated people over the age of 12 from leaving their homes except for basic activities such as working, shopping, going for a walk or getting vaccinated.
Authorities fear hospital staff will no longer be able to handle the growing influx of COVID-19 patients.
“It is our job as the government of Austria to protect the people,” Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg told reporters in Vienna on Sunday. “Therefore we have decided that starting from Monday … there will be a lockdown for the unvaccinated”.
The blockade affects around 2 million people in the Alpine country of 8.9 million people, according to the APA news agency. It does not apply to children under the age of 12 because they cannot yet be officially vaccinated.
The lockdown will initially last for 10 days and police have been asked to check people outside to make sure they are vaccinated, Schallenberg said.
Austria has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe: only around 65% of the total population is fully vaccinated. In recent weeks, the country has had to face a worrying trend of infections. The country reported 11,552 new cases on Sunday; a week ago there were 8,554 new infections.
The seven-day infection rate stands at 775.5 new cases per 100,000 population. In comparison, the rate is at 289 in neighboring Germany, which has already sounded the alarm for the numbers on the rise.