Austria has become the first European country to make Covid vaccines mandatory for all, as the government today abolished its ‘vaccine apartheid’ in favor of a complete nationwide lockdown.
Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg accused the non-incentives of launching an “attack on the health system,” arguing that drastic measures are needed to curb the country’s rapidly rising cases.
“Despite months of persuasion, we have not been able to convince enough people to get vaccinated,” Schallenberg said at a news conference Monday.
He spoke as it was revealed that Europe is now in the midst of a… the biggest Covid wave ever as the continent’s one-day infection rate hit an all-time high on Wednesday.
There were 310,000 Covid infections recorded across the continent on Wednesday, according to the Our World in Data site, surpassing the previous one-day peak of 290,000 cases around the same time last year.
Meanwhile, Italy became the latest country to target the unvaccinated for lockdown, with a government spokesperson saying it is “inevitable” they will face tougher restrictions when a new decree is published next week.
Meanwhile, Ireland, which this week imposed a curfew on hospitality businesses, today put its hospitals on a ‘war basis’ with routine surgeries canceled to make way for Covid patients amid a warning from the country’s top doctor that intensive care -medics are faced with ‘unthinkable’ choices about who to care for.
And Germany’s incoming Chancellor Olaf Scholz said nearly 30 million vaccines would need to be administered before the end of the year to avert the worst effects of the winter wave, requiring the country to receive more than double the number of injections it has received. currently gives. day.
He spoke a day after Germany proposed new rules that would limit the movements of unvaccinated people in states with high hospitalizations. The Bundestag will vote on the new laws today.
Austria’s lockdown comes into effect from Monday and means all non-essential shops will be completely closed, with workers told to work from home and schools – except kindergartens and nurseries – to close.
People will also not be able to leave their homes except for essential reasons.
The vaccine mandate will not take effect until February next year. It was not immediately clear which age groups would be included, although they are expected to be very young and those unable to receive vaccines due to immunodeficiencies will also be exempted.
At the beginning of this week, Austria already started a lockdown for those who have not been vaccinated or have recently been cured, becoming the first EU country to do so.
But the number of infections continued to increase. On Thursday, a new record of more than 15,000 new cases was registered in the Alpine EU member of nearly nine million people.
Demand for vaccinations has increased in recent days and 66 percent of the population is now completely stung, slightly below the EU average of more than 67 percent.
Other European countries are also tightening restrictions as the number of cases increases across the continent.
Hungary, which borders Austria, will make it mandatory to wear masks indoors again from Saturday, the government said on Thursday.
The World Health Organization has described the continent as the “epicenter” of the pandemic. The restrictions imposed last night in Germany mean that only the double jab, or holders of a recovery certificate, are allowed to visit restaurants, sports venues and cultural events.
Germany’s measures will apply in regions where more than three Covid patients are hospitalized for every 100,000 people.
Saxony, the area hardest hit by the fourth wave, is considering closing theaters and concert halls and postponing football matches, Bild newspaper reported.
Lothar Wieler, the head of the Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases, warned that Germans were facing “a terrible Christmas” without stricter restrictions.
“Anyone who can’t see that is making a very big mistake,” he said, pointing to the record increase in infections yesterday from 65,371 cases in 24 hours.
Austria also reached a new high on Thursday with 15,145. The Alpine country, which has completely stabbed 63% of its population, issued a dict earlier this week ordering unvaccinated people to stay at home.
They are only allowed to leave their homes for essential reasons and violators can be punished with fines of up to €1,450. Two regions, Upper Austria and Salzburg, announced complete closures yesterday, even for those stabbed.
“We no longer see an alternative to a lockdown,” Salzburg Governor Wilfried Haslauer said. The Netherlands and Belgium have also partially closed their economies.
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said: ‘All alarm signals are on red. The map of Europe is quickly turning red.’
Marco Cavaleri of the European Medicines Agency said “unacceptably low vaccination coverage” in some countries, as well as the Delta variant, pushed up the number of cases.