The Austrian leader says the blockade for the unvaccinated is likely

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The Austrian Chancellor on Thursday stepped up threats of lockdown measures for unvaccinated people, as new coronavirus cases in the Alpine nation are increasing. The country’s worst-hit province said it plans to take this step next week.

Austria has taken a number of measures in recent weeks in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 and encourage more people to get vaccinated. New rules came into effect on Monday banning unvaccinated people who have not recovered from the infection from restaurants, hotels, hairdressers, and large public events.

Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said late last month that unvaccinated people in Austria may face new lockdown restrictions if the number of infections continues to rise, which they do. On Thursday, official data showed 760.6 reported cases per 100,000 residents in the previous seven days, a rate three times higher than in neighboring Germany, where even record numbers are causing alarm.

During a visit to Bregenz in western Austria on Thursday, Schallenberg said a lockdown for the unvaccinated is “probably inevitable” and that the unvaccinated face an “uncomfortable” winter and Christmas, the Austria Press Agency reported.

“I don’t see why two-thirds should lose their freedom because a third is hesitating,” Schallenberg said. “For me it is clear that there should be no blockade for the vaccinated out of solidarity with the unvaccinated.”

The province of Upper Austria, the country’s hardest-hit region with nearly 1,200 new cases per 100,000 residents in the past week, said on Thursday that it plans to take the initiative.

Officials “plan a lockdown for unvaccinated people from Monday, provided there is a legal green light from the federal government, or rather that the federal government creates the legal basis,” Governor Thomas Stelzer said.

Schallenberg said authorities will consider a vaccination mandate for some occupational groups. He added that the country’s vaccination rate is “disgracefully low”. About 65% of the population is completely inoculated.

The chancellor insisted that “we can break this wave together”.

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