The Government of Upper Austria plans to impose a full lockdown on the region's unvaccinated as of next Monday, despite doubts that this is the right approach at the growing number of COVID-19 infections, it was reported.
The measure was announced just one day after Governor Thomas Stelzer had spoken against it. “The development of this [coronavirus] wave does not allow the normal rhythm that we have known so far; that is why we will trigger the fifth level of protection prescribed by the federal government: This is the lockdown for the unvaccinated,” he said.
Starting Monday, Upper Austria's unvaccinated population may only leave their homes to go to work, shop or for a walk. In any case, only people who have been either vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 will be allowed into restaurants and other facilities, it was announced.
Upper Austria's seven-day incidence is almost 1,200 cases, which is significantly higher than the national average. With 89 patients in ICUs, the state's health services are on the threshold of their responding capacities. Local doctors have called for distancing measures, which they say are particularly effective in keeping the virus at bay.
In any case, the final approval of the Upper Austria lockdown is up to Federal Government authorities. But since Federal Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein had recommended a lockdown for Upper Austria on Wednesday, the restrictive measure is expected to be given the green light.
Nevertheless, Constitutional law scholars have voiced their criticism against such a decision.
A similar sanitary condition has been reported in the state of Salzburg, with an incidence of almost 1,150, but measures do not go as far as a lockdown – just a widespread mask requirement and an expansion of the 2G rules (vaccination passports required to eat at restaurants and access other places). Nationwide, the average seven-day incidence is 760.
“If more than 600 intensive care beds are occupied nationwide, a so-called step-by-step plan provides for a lockdown for unvaccinated persons throughout Austria. This is a very harsh measure, but apparently necessary,” Federal Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg explained.
“We are actually following the step-by-step plan that we have a few days before we have to impose a lockdown on those who have not been vaccinated. Do we want to go there? Of course not. Is that what any of us want? Well not anyway. But we have agreed - the federal and state governments - on a clear step-by-step plan,” he added.
In addition to this announcement, Austria's federal government is classifying almost the entire country as well as the Czech Republic and Hungary as coronavirus high-risk areas, effective Sunday. Under these conditions, anyone arriving from a high-risk area who is unvaccinated or has not recovered from COVID-19 will be placed under mandatory quarantine for ten days, which can be cut down to five with a negative test.
Schallenberg is to be making all the decisions regarding COVID-19 lockdowns by Sunday and a nationwide quarantine is not to be ruled out.
It is already clear that this winter and Christmas will be uncomfortable for the unvaccinated, Schallenberg has warned.
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