‘We’re in a national emergency’: Germany may follow Austria into full lockdown as COVID cases hit new high

World

Austria is to become the first country in Europe to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory by law and has announced a full national lockdown from Monday, amid a fourth wave sweeping the continent.

Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said the coronavirus lockdown would run for a “maximum of 20 days”.

He also announced it would be a “requirement to get vaccinated” from 1 February.

Students will have to go back into home schooling, restaurants will be closed and cultural events will be canceled.

“We do not want a fifth wave,” Mr Schallenberg said.

The country had already introduced a series of strict measures along with Germany and Slovakia in the weeks leading up to Christmas, as a debate intensifies over whether vaccines alone are enough to tackle coronavirus.

Around 66% of Austria’s population is fully vaccinated, one of the lowest rates in western Europe.

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And the infection rate is among the highest on the continent, with a seven-day incidence of 971.5 per 100,000 people, and daily cases keep setting records.

Two states in Austria – Salzburg and Upper Austria – had already triggered a range of restrictions, with the rules extended to apply to vaccinated people and a full lockdown from next week that would see schools shut and a curfew imposed.

Last week, Europe accounted for more than half of the seven-day average of infections globally and about half of the latest deaths, according to a tally by Reuters news agency.

It comes after German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced fresh curbs on public life for those who have not had a vaccine in areas where hospitals are filling dangerously fast with coronavirus patients.

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And Greece has also imposed more restrictions on unvaccinated people following a recent surge in cases – barring them from all indoor spaces, such as cinemas, museums, and gyms.

The death rate from the virus has reached its highest level in six months, as roughly one-third of Greece’s population remains unvaccinated.

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