Austria will go into a nationwide lockdown on Monday and impose a coronavirus vaccination mandate next February, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said on Friday. It is the first such lockdown in a European nation since the spring, and the first national vaccine mandate on the continent.
“Nobody wants a lockdown — the lockdown is the very last resort, a crude instrument,” Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein said.“A lockdown is always an imposition, but it is the most reliable instrument we have to break this fourth wave.”
Most aspects of public life in Austria will be suspended for at least 10 days under the lockdown, which will affect both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
The measures, reminiscent of those that European nations put into place before vaccines were available, follow other recent restrictions — including a lockdown for unvaccinated people and planned lockdowns in two states — that have done little to lower the rate of infection.
Under the new rules, people will be allowed to leave their homes only for vital purposes such as shopping for groceries, going to work or getting a basic level of exercise. Only supermarkets and stores selling essentials will be allowed to remain open.
The country, which registered 14,212 new coronavirus cases in 24 hours on Thursday, has one of Europe’s highest national infection rates.
Austria also has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe, with 66 percent of the population fully inoculated.
“For a long time, the political consensus has been that we do not want compulsory vaccinations in this country,” Mr. Schallenberg said when announcing the new measures. “But we have to face reality.”